What is rheumatoid arthritis? 

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory form of arthritis caused by an autoimmune disease. It can affect a wide range of people and is generally diagnosed via a blood test. It is the most common form of autoimmune disease and is more likely to affect females than males. While your GP or Rheumatologist can prescribe medications to alleviate some symptoms, an exercise program – such as the SARAH program – has been clinically found to help ease stiff and swollen joints and improve muscle weakness of those living with RA. What is rheumatoid arthritis? 

The SARAH Program 

The SARAH program – Strengthening and Stretching for Rheumatoid Arthritis of the Hand – is a progressive 12-week exercise program, tailored for those diagnosed with RA. The program, developed by experienced occupational therapists and physiotherapists, has been extensively researched and found to increase the upper limb strength and mobility of those suffering from RA.

Melbourne Hand Therapy provides leading evidence-based programs in the treatment of all our patients. Our therapists are SARAH Certified and able to guide those with RA through exercise regimes that will help relieve painful swelling and stiffness and improve their quality of life. 

Under the SARAH program, 4-to-6 therapy sessions are required to help patients develop a greater understanding of the disease, learn about activity modification and joint protection as well as the actual exercises that are required under the program. 

Session 1:

  • Education and advice on arthritis, joint protection principles and activity modification,
  • Initial assessment,
  • Obtain objective measures of the patient’s movement and strength 
  • Outline goals and work with the patient to determine what enablers or barriers might exist to limit their improvement,  
  • Information on the SARAH exercise program. 

Session 2-5:

  • One-on-one, individualised advice and education,
  • Exercise program tailored to an individual’s goals and functional capacity,
  • Splinting if required, 
  • Prescribe the SARAH exercise program and provide associated exercise equipment,
  • Review and discuss patient goals. 

Final session:

  • Individualised advice and education to assist with self-management,
  • Reassessment of outcome measures to determine improvements and benefits from the program,
  • Provide materials and equipment to assist in self-managing exercises moving forwards. 

On completion of the SARAH program, patients can expect better joint mobility, an increase in strength and greater functional capacity to better complete daily tasks and improve quality of life.

What is rheumatoid arthritis

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