Nearly 1.5 million people are affected by rheumatoid arthritis today. For years, physical and occupational therapists have provided effective treatment through the use of drug regimens; however, the rise of opioid abuse has caused clinicians everywhere to seek out drug-free alternatives for pain relief. Tailored hand exercises have been theorized to enhance the effects of drug treatments, but evidence lacks. Last year, a group of researchers set out to compare drug regimens to hand exercises in patients with rheumatoid arthritis of the hand.

Exercises to improve function of the rheumatoid hand

The study (Lamb et al. 2015) consisted of 490 adults who had rheumatoid arthritis of the hand and had been on a stable drug regimen for at least 3 months. The participants were split into two groups: usual care or usual care plus a hand exercise program including the TheraBand Hand Exerciser that lasted for twelve months. The researchers used overall hand function as well as cost effectiveness of hand exercises compared to drugs as measurement benchmarks.

Effectiveness of hand exercises for rheumatoid arthritis

The results of the study showed that a tailored hand exercise program is a worthwhile, low-cost intervention as an adjunct to a range of prescription drugs (Lamb et al. 2015).

In addition to being cost-effective, the hand exercise group :

  1. Improved hand muscle strength: ✔
  2. Improved hand dexterity: ✔
  3. Improved flexibility: ✔

The TheraBand Hand Exerciser is a great tool for patients with rheumatoid arthritis of the hand. This tool comes in five progression levels and, much like the study, helps strengthen grip, increase dexterity and mobility, and improve fine and gross motor skills while offering the added benefit of hot and cold therapy. The Hand Exerciser is a must-have for anyone with rheumatoid arthritis in the hand.

J11 Infographic

Disclaimer: Performance Health provided hand exercisers for this study, but did not provide monetary funding


Lamb SE et al. 2015. Exercises to improve function of the rheumatoid hand (SARAH): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet Jan 31;385(9966):421-9. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60998-3. Epub 2014 Oct 9.

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