Effectiveness of Occupational Therapy Interventions for Adults With Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Systematic Review

Am J Occup Ther. 2017 Jan/Feb;71(1):7101180050p1-7101180050p11. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2017.023176.


Objective: We reviewed the efficacy of occupational therapy-related interventions for adults with rheumatoid arthritis.

Method: We examined 51 Level I studies (19 physical activity, 32 psychoeducational) published 2000-2014 and identified from five databases. Interventions that focused solely on the upper or lower extremities were not included.

Results: Findings related to key outcomes (activities of daily living, ability, pain, fatigue, depression, self-efficacy, disease symptoms) are presented. Strong evidence supports the use of aerobic exercise, resistive exercise, and aquatic therapy. Mixed to limited evidence supports dynamic exercise, Tai Chi, and yoga. Among the psychoeducation interventions, strong evidence supports the use of patient education, self-management, cognitive-behavioral approaches, multidisciplinary approaches, and joint protection, and limited or mixed evidence supports the use of assistive technology and emotional disclosure.

Conclusion: The evidence supports interventions within the scope of occupational therapy practice for rheumatoid arthritis, but few interventions were occupation based.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adult
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / physiopathology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / psychology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / rehabilitation*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Depression
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Fatigue
  • Humans
  • Occupational Therapy / methods*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Self Care
  • Self Efficacy
  • Self-Help Devices
  • Treatment Outcome