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Hand Exercises Improve Arm Function in Arthritis Patients

Strengthening exercises can be done at home

FRIDAY, May 5 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with rheumatoid arthritis can significantly improve their arm function through a program of hand-strengthening exercises that can be done at home, according to a report in the May issue of Rheumatology.

A.V. O'Brien, of Keele University in Staffordshire, U.K., and colleagues studied 67 patients with rheumatoid arthritis. In addition to receiving joint protection information from a physical therapist at baseline, patients were randomized to receive either a set of hand-strengthening and mobilizing home exercises, a different set of simple hand-stretching exercises, or no additional therapy. Outcomes were assessed up to six months using the upper limb, and hand and finger function subscales of the Arthritis Impact Measurement Scales II.

The researchers found that the mean upper limb scores declined in patients treated with a set of hand-strengthening and mobilizing home exercises, meaning that arm function improved, but that the scores increased in the other two groups. The differences in change scores between the first group and the latter two groups were statistically significant, according to the study.

"Statistically significant improvements in arm function have been demonstrated following a program of home-strengthening hand exercises in rheumatoid arthritis patients compared with simple stretches or advice alone," O'Brien and colleagues conclude.

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