Functional and work outcomes improve in patients with rheumatoid arthritis who receive targeted, comprehensive occupational therapy




Work disability is a serious consequence of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We conducted a 6-month, prospective randomized controlled trial comparing assessments of function, work, coping, and disease activity in employed patients with RA receiving occupational therapy intervention versus usual care.


Employed patients with RA with increased perceived work disability risk were identified by the RA Work Instability Scale (WIS; score ≥10). Patients were stratified into medium- (score ≥10 and <17) and high-risk (≥17) groups, then randomized into occupational therapy or usual care groups. Assessments were conducted at baseline and 6 months. The primary outcome was the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (COPM), a standardized patient self-report of function. Other outcomes included the disability index (DI) of the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ); Disease Activity Score in 28 joints (DAS28); RA WIS; EuroQol Index; visual analog scales (VAS) for pain, work satisfaction, and work performance; and days missed/month. Independent sample t-tests and Mann-Whitney U tests were used.


We recruited 32 employed patients with RA. At baseline the groups were well matched. At 6 months the improvement in the occupational therapy group was significantly greater than that in the usual care group for all functional outcomes (COPM performance P < 0.001, COPM satisfaction P < 0.001, HAQ DI P = 0.02) and most work outcomes (RA WIS [P = 0.04], VAS work satisfaction [P < 0.001], VAS work performance [P = 0.01]). Additionally, Arthritis Helplessness Index (P = 0.02), Arthritis Impact Measurement Scales II pain subscale (P = 0.03), VAS pain (P = 0.007), EuroQol Index (P = 0.02), EuroQol global (P = 0.02), and DAS28 (P = 0.03) scores significantly improved.


Targeted, comprehensive occupational therapy intervention improves functional and work-related outcomes in employed RA patients at risk of work disability.