One of the most common things we hear from our support group members with IBM is their difficulties with diminished grip.
Opening jars and things like soda bottles with twist caps becomes a harder task because their hands just don’t work as well anymore. There are a lot of products on the market to help facilitate opening jars, click here to see Mike Shirk’s YouTube video on the One Touch can opener (available at Target, to purchase click here). A variety of other assistive devices are also available on ArthritisSupplies.com, click here.
And although those handy gadgets are great for their purposes, what inspires me even more are the grip strengthening tools on the market. IronMind (click here ) explains why therapeutic exercise can help your grip, while sites like ProHands (click here) offer the impressive GripMaster (available at sporting stores like REI, to purchase click here). The Mayo Clinic also has a slideshow for hand exercises for people with arthritis, click here to view the series.
Here’s an even more interesting idea: Tendon Transfer Surgery. We know this was a topic discussed at TMA’s 2012 Annual conference, and apparantly Dr. Thomas Brushart at John Hopkin’s Hospital in Baltimore has successfully performed this surgery on 4 IBM patients. We found this segment on Dagmar Slaven’s blog Myo-Musings (click here);
My biggest limitations these days are restrooms outside of my own home, be they public or at friend’s homes. I can only use a urinal then, which I keep cleverly hidden in a bag behind my wheel chair seat. Due to poor finger function, I have now more pronounced trouble pulling up my pants. (this is when I have to admit to myself that the progression of this disease is ongoing and relentless) Rather frustrating, and this forces me to replace many of my pull-on slacks with a larger size to make the task easier. Besides loose-fitting slacks, anything that is too snug has to be replaced with looser fitting items so that it will be easier to dress myself and remain independent. E.g., wearing a cardigan over a long sleeve top: I may be able to put it on, but will have trouble taking it off later due to poor finger grip function.
Staying with this subject, I found out recently that there is a hand surgery option, called tendon transfer surgery for IBM patients. This can restore finger function to the point of being able to once again tie shoes, button clothes, use zippers and more. Amen to that!! This specific surgery has been successfully performed on 4 IBM patients by a hand surgeon named Thomas Brushart at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
The only caveat to being a candidate for this surgery is that you have to demonstrate strong extensor function and the joints have to be flexible. If your joints are stiff or if you have developed contractures, the surgery will not be successful. The other rather important thing with this surgery is that your hand/arm will be out of commission for at least 5 to 6 weeks. Because of that, in my particular case I would require extensive assistance. The loss of use of just one limb will render me pretty much immobile and helpless during that time. This is an important point to discuss with the surgeon as is the possibility of approving a stay in a rehab setting afterwards. Nevertheless, I intend to pursue this and hope that Dr. Brushart can recommend a hand surgeon in the Boston area to perform this surgery, which recovery aside, would be considered day surgery. As many of you can relate, I find the loss of finger function much harder to accept than the loss of ability in my legs. This surgery, in a way, seems like an answer to my prayers.
ASSH (American Society for Surgery of the Hand) details the process of tendon transfer on their website, click here.