Clinical Rheumatology

, Volume 33, Issue 11, pp 1539–1548

A systematic review into the effectiveness of hand exercise therapy in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis

  • S. A. Bergstra
  • A. Murgia
  • A. F. Te Velde
  • S. R. Caljouw
Review Article


Hand exercises are often part of the treatment of hand rheumatoid arthritis; however, it is still unclear whether and what type of exercises is effective in the treatment of this condition. Therefore, a systematic review into the effectiveness of hand exercises in the treatment of hand rheumatoid arthritis has been performed. Studies were identified in the literature databases by predefined search criteria. The eight included studies are peer-reviewed studies published between 2000 and 2014. Hand exercises differed between studies, but always included resistance and/or active range of motion exercises. Grip strength in various grip types (power grip, key pinch, precision pinch and tripod pinch) was found to improve by hand exercise therapy without having adverse effects on pain or disease activity. Adaptations in the range of motion in response to hand exercise therapy were less pronounced. There appears to be some transfer from the improvements on the body functioning level to the level of daily functioning, with the largest improvements found on grip ability. With regard to the intervention content, there was some evidence in favour of a longer therapy duration and a higher therapy intensity. No conclusions could be drawn on the effectiveness of the different types of exercises. Collectively, the studies indicate that hand exercises may have positive effects on strength and some aspects of daily functioning without aggravating disease activity or pain, although caution should be taken for subjects in the exacerbation period.


Grip strength Hand exercises Hand therapy Rheumatoid arthritis 

Supplementary material

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ESM 1(DOC 56.0 kb)


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Copyright information

© Clinical Rheumatology 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. A. Bergstra
    • 1
  • A. Murgia
    • 1
  • A. F. Te Velde
    • 2
  • S. R. Caljouw
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Human Movement Sciences, University Medical Center GroningenUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Hand Therapy NetherlandsUtrechtThe Netherlands

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