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FOTO Rehab Outcomes Blog

Are Occupational Therapists Effective in Treating Individuals who have Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Occupational therapists work with quite a few individuals who have rheumatoid arthritis. I find it interesting how what occupational therapists provide can at times appear similar to what physical therapists provide. As you can see, there is growing evidence of the value of exercise, educating patients, and promoting self-efficacy. All clinicians should include components of these interventions with their patients to help improve results of care.


Here's a quick abstract that may help you include interventions that increase an occupational therapist's effectiveness. 

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

Siegel P1, Tencza M2, Apodaca B3, Poole JL4.



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


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.


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.


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

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