Finger joint contact areas and pressures



Although the joints of the index finger are similar geometrically and kinematically, the occurrence of degenerative joint disease is more frequent and severe in the distal interphalangeal joint. Much circumstantial evidence exists to suggest a mechanical cause for the observed differences in frequency. This article presents the results of in vitro experiments designed to determine contact areas and average pressures in the joints of the human index finger for positions simulating tip pinch and power grasp. The results show that the highest average contact pressures do, in fact, occur in the distal interphalangeal joint. Average joint contact pressure correlates well with clinically observed patterns of frequency of degeneration and degenerative joint disease score. This correlation between clinical experience and experimental results indicates that mechanical stress is among the factors responsible for the initiation and/or propagation of degenerative joint disease in the joints of the finger.