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Beyond the hand and upper extremity: The role of hand therapists in care of people with rheumatic diseases

Published:August 16, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jht.2022.07.008

      Highlights

      • Functional and work disability in people with rheumatic diseases remain high despite advances in medical and pharmacological management
      • Hand therapists can play a vital role in chronic rheumatic disease management to improve self-management and increase participation in meaningful activities.
      • Patients, primary care, and rheumatology providers need to be educated about the scope of services occupational and physical therapy provide beyond the hand impairments.

      Abstract

      Study design

      Invited Clinical Commentary

      Background

      Arthritis is one of the most frequently reported causes of disability in the United States and the prevalence is expected to increase in the coming decades. While many rheumatic diseases involve hand impairments, most are systemic and involve more than the musculoskeletal system. Functional and work disability are high and people would benefit from the services of occupational and physical therapists.

      Purpose of study

      This paper reviews concepts of self-management, and symptoms that contribute to limitations and restrictions to participation in daily life in people with rheumatic diseases and suggests roles for hand therapists beyond the immediate hand impairments.

      Methods

      The impact of selected rheumatic diseases on functional and work disability are reviewed along with strategies for symptom management and self-management. Upper extremity impairments of selected rheumatic diseases are also discussed.

      Results

      The role for hand therapists in evaluating and addressing the complex needs of persons with rheumatic diseases, including less common diseases, is discussed. Outcome measures for fatigue, muscle involvement, ergonomics and computer use, and work disability are introduced. Finally, strategies for self-management and prevention of work and functional disability, along with symptom management for fatigue and pain are presented.

      Conclusion

      Hand therapists can play a vital role in chronic rheumatic disease management to improve self-management and increase participation in meaningful activities. Patients, primary care and rheumatology providers need to be educated about the scope of services occupational and physical therapists provide beyond the hand impairments.

      Keywords

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