Background Hand exercises are recommended for patients with hand osteoarthritis (HOA), though evidence for their effect is conflicting.
Objective To evaluate, in a randomised controlled trial, the effect of HOA information plus home-based hand exercises (exercise group) compared with information only (control group) in women with HOA.
Methods Interventions were delivered by two occupational therapists. Exercise group participants received eight follow-up calls over the 3-month study and recorded adherence, pain after exercises and adverse events in a diary. Primary outcome was activity performance measured after 3 months by the Patient-Specific Functional Scale (PSFS), with a range of 0–10. Secondary outcomes were measurements of hand function, disease activity, symptoms and number of responders to treatment according to the OMERACT-OARSI criteria.
Results Of 80 women randomised (40 : 40) (mean age (SD) 60.8 years (7.0)), follow-up was 89% (n=71). An intention-to-treat analysis was performed. The adjusted mean difference for the exercise versus control group was 1.4 points (95% CI 0.6 to 2.2, effect size 1.0) for the PSFS score. Thirteen patients in the exercise group versus three participants in the control group reached a positive minimal clinical important difference of 2.2 points in the PSFS total score, while none versus two, respectively, had a negative change (p=0.007). For secondary outcomes, significant mean differences were found in grip strength and thumb web space, in fatigue, joint pain and the Functional Index for HOA activity performance scores. Sixteen exercise-group participants fulfilled the OMERACT-OARSI response criteria versus two control-group participants (p<0.001).
Conclusions Hand exercises were well tolerated and significantly improved activity performance, grip strength, pain and fatigue in women with HOA.
Trial registration number: ISRTCN79019063.
- Hand Osteoarthritis
- Occupational Therapy
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