Effects of a progressive resistance exercise program in patients with hand osteoarthritis: a randomized, controlled trial with a blinded assessor

Review written by Dr Ian Gatt info

Key Points

  1. Adherence to a 12-week supervised exercise programme for over 60-year-old female patients suffering from osteoarthritis symptoms of the hand improves pain during hand activities and reduces drug usage.
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Symptomatic hand osteoarthritis (SHOA) is a common condition that affects hand strength and function, and causes disability in activities of daily living, with literature suggesting and confirming factors such as increasing age, gender (female), obesity and genetics are possibly linked to its development (1,2,3). The relationship between sports participation and OA has also been put forward; however, in a recent study on former cricket and rugby union players, no association between previous severe hand injury and OA was observed (4).

In the hand, the most common site of OA is at the base of the thumb (first carpometacarpal joint), with OA changes confirmed by radiographic evaluation observed in up to 81% of the elderly population (5). Commonly described non-pharmacological recommendations aimed at improving function, pain and strength include the use of exercise, however, studies aimed at evaluating the effects of exercise for hand OA, with a treatment duration ranging from 8 to 12 weeks, have not yielded any effects on pain and strength (6,7,8,9).

This study was therefore aimed at evaluating the effects of a progressive resistance exercise program on pain, function, hand grip, and pinch strength of patients with hand OA.

In the hand, the most common site of OA is at the base of the thumb.
The exercise group reported improved pain during function and less use of medication, with overall improved satisfaction.


This study was a controlled, randomized intention-to-treat clinical trial with a blinded evaluator, carried out between 2013-2015. The inclusion criteria were:

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