Physical and occupational therapy referral and use among systemic sclerosis patients with impaired hand function: results from a Canadian national survey

Clin Exp Rheumatol. Jul-Aug 2012;30(4):574-7. Epub 2012 Aug 29.


Objectives: Contractures and deformities of the hand are major factors in disability and reduced health-related quality of life in systemic sclerosis (SSc). Physical (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) have been emphasised to address impaired hand function, but little is known about the extent they are employed. The objective of this study was to determine the proportion of Canadian SSc patients with hand involvement who are referred to and use PT or OT services and factors associated with referral.

Methods: Participants were respondents to the Canadian Scleroderma Patient Survey of Health Concerns and Research Priorities who rated ≥1 of 5 hand problems (hand stiffness, difficulty making fist, difficulty holding objects, difficulty opening hand, difficulty with faucet) as occurring at least sometimes with moderate or higher impact. Patients indicated if their physicians recommended PT or OT and if they used these services. Multivariate logistic regression assessed independent predictors of PT or OT referral.

Results: Of 317 patients with hand involvement, 90 (28%) reported PT or OT referral, but only 39 (12%) reported using these services. PT or OT referral was associated with more hand problems (odds ratio [OR]=1.24, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.02-1.51, p=0.031) younger age (OR=0.96, 95% CI 0.94-0.99, p=0.004) and not being employed (OR=0.50, 95% CI 0.26-0.97, p=.0041).

Conclusions: Few SSc patients with hand involvement are referred to PT or OT, and even fewer use these services. High-quality randomised controlled trials of PT and OT interventions to improve hand function in SSc are needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Hand / physiology
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Skills Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Motor Skills Disorders / therapy*
  • Occupational Therapy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / epidemiology*
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / therapy*