The effectiveness of hand exercises for persons with rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review
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A systematic review was conducted to evaluate the efficacy of hand exercises for persons with rheumatoid arthritis. The databases Medline, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), EMBASE, PEDro, and Cochrane were used to search for articles on exercise and hand and rheumatoid arthritis (and their synonyms). Any articles that evaluated the effects of exercise on the hand were included in the review and evaluated for quality on a form specifically developed for the reviews in this issue. Only nine studies evaluated the effect of hand exercise or a program that included hand exercise. Quality scores ranged from 21 to 39 out of a possible 48. Few studies used psychometrically sound measures or reported on changes to everyday function. Although some significant results were obtained, they may have been due to multiple outcome measures, lack of blinding, and within-group rather than between-group comparisons. Impairment and dexterity were frequent outcomes, but measurement of self-report function was lacking. Long-term exercise may increase strength, but results on range of motion are inconsistent across studies, subjects, and joints. There is a need for randomized controlled trials with goal-specific exercise, measurement of outcomes appropriate to the goals, adequate sample size, and comparison with an appropriate control condition.
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