March 2016 No. 39
Neoprene: Sometimes the Unique Solution
On occasion therapists are faced with clinical challenges to which there is no readily available solution. Neoprene is an orthotic material which sometimes can provide a custom solution to a unique problem.
Perhaps the patient has a bulbous arthritic finger joint but wants to maintain some motion. A snug fitting neoprene sleeve can provide an external “ligament,” diminishing pain during use. A sleeve can cover the entire finger to provide insulation against cold exposure, allowing the patient to return to work in a cold environment.
Neoprene is also an effective padding material, being especially effective at absorbing sheer force. The slightly stretchy and soft characteristics make it an ideal material for pressure distribution in some strapping applications.
In our busy clinics it is inefficient to construct a neoprene orthosis when there are many readily available commercial neoprene solutions. Constructing an orthosis of neoprene is best reserved for the one-of-a-kind problems for which you have nothing else to offer the patient.
This clinical pearl offers tips for working with neoprene and construction instructions for three specific orthoses: 1) A finger sleeve for insulation or for use as an external ligament, 2) a finger protector for a contracted finger with scleroderma, and 3) a soft orthosis to maintain thumb abduction in an insensate hand with median palsy.
These are only a few of the many ideas for the use of neoprene for unique clinical circumstances.
Thanks to Patricia Rappaport MPT, CHT for editing and comments.
This Clinical Pearl continues in the downloadable PDF. To view tips for working with neoprene and construction instructions for three specific orthoses, click here to download the complete Clinical Pearl.
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Disclaimer: HandLab Clinical Pearls are intended to be an informal sharing of practical clinical ideas; not formal evidence-based conclusions of fact.