A six-week hand exercise programme improves strength and hand function in patients with rheumatoid arthritis

J Rehabil Med. 2009 Apr;41(5):338-42. doi: 10.2340/16501977-0334.


Objective: To evaluate the effects of hand exercise in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and to compare the results with healthy controls.

Methods: Forty women (20 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and 20 healthy controls) performed a hand exercise programme. The results were evaluated after 6 and 12 weeks with hand force measurements (with a finger extension force measurement device (EX-it) and finger flexion force measurement with Grippit). Hand function was evaluated with the Grip Ability Test (GAT) and with patient relevant questionnaires (Disability of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand (DASH) and Short Form-36). Ultrasound measurements were performed on m. extensor digitorum communis for analysis of the muscle response to the exercise programme.

Results: The extension and flexion force improved in both groups after 6 weeks (p < 0.01). Hand function (GAT) also improved in both groups (p < 0.01). The rheumatoid arthritis group showed improvement in the results of the DASH questionnaire (p < 0.05). The cross-sectional area of the extensor digitorum communis increased significantly in both groups measured with ultrasound.

Conclusion: A significant improvement in hand force and hand function in patients with rheumatoid arthritis was seen after 6 weeks of hand training; the improvement was even more pronounced after 12 weeks. Hand exercise is thus an effective intervention for rheumatoid arthritis patients, leading to better strength and function.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnostic imaging
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / physiopathology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / rehabilitation*
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Hand / physiopathology
  • Hand Strength / physiology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / diagnostic imaging
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonography