LONDON, ONT. -- Thousands of custom finger splints are made each year at DigiSplint in Exeter, Ont. for clients with arthritis.

“There are things now we can do to slow down or stop the progression of arthritis, we can control the pain in the joint,” says Derek Bakelaar, founder of Digisplint.

Bakelaar, a goldsmith who used to own and operate a jewellery store, started building finger splints after experiencing his own hand injury.

It wasn’t long after that he closed down his jewelry store and opened up Digisplints 23 years ago.

Digisplint has around 10,000 clients across the country and is the only place in Canada that makes finger splints for orthopaedic therapy use.

“It’s grown to the point now where we work with 300 therapists...across the country and we are providers for all the workers' compensation now for workplace injuries across the country,” says Bakelaar.

Each splint is custom, made-to-order and can be made on the spot or shipped within days to the patient.

“It’s not like what you would see in a jewelry store for round rings, we have about 60 different sizes so we have about 60 different moulds one for each one.”

The design is specifically unique because they are handcrafted.

“We build them in a way where they don’t look like splints it’s a combination of rings,” says Bakelaar. “It’s about reaching certain pressure points on the finger to stabilize joints and to align and to take care of a finger that way.”

Bakelaar says he loves what he does because he’s able to use his trade as a gold and silversmith to make a difference in peoples lives, in many cases hearing success stories from clients who can go back to work or do what they love again because of the splints.

“If we can stabilize a joint that’s causing pain so that it no longer hurts, quite often, you’re using your hands more and when you’re using your hand more your strength starts to come back and people stop dropping things because it no longer hurts.”

The DigiSplint team is small but mighty, and the hopes are to be able to add a hand therapist to the team in the near future and continue to make a life-changing difference for tens of thousands of Canadians.