Date of Award
Master of Physician Assistant Studies
Physician Assistant Education
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, systemic disease that results in bone and joint destruction, commonly effecting joints of the hands and feet, leading to pain and physical limitations. Because of these limitations, quality of life in patients with RA can be heavily impacted.1 Quality of life (QOL) is described as the standard in which a person or group experiences happiness, solace, and a sense of well-being.2 QOL may be affected by various factors in a person’s life and can range widely from individual to individual. For people with RA, quality of life is considered as a combination of several dimensions of health consequences, including pain, fatigue, physical functioning, and social functioning.3 It is common knowledge that physical activity has many positive benefits on the human body and mind and can therefore improve overall quality of life. There are sadly low physical activity levels among people with RA and there is evidence that shows that there is a need for recommendations on and support of physical activity in this population.4
Pharmacological treatment for RA has improved over the years and is aimed at decreasing inflammation as well as slowing down disease progression with the use of disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs).5 Non-pharmacological treatment, specifically exercise, plays an important role in overall healthcare as well. There are different variations of exercise in which someone with RA can participate, such as strength training, aerobic exercise, weight-bearing exercise and hydrotherapy. Because physical activity has many positive effects on quality of life, it would make sense that it would improve quality of life in those with RA as well. Individuals with RA, as well as health-care providers who manage their care, may be hesitant to engage in or recommend exercising because of fear that it may make symptoms and disease progression worse. This fear is understandable, but there is data to support that implementing physical activity for a duration of four weeks or more may improve quality of life without having detrimental effects on the disease progression in people with RA.
Fletcher, Brooke, "The Effects of Exercise on Quality of Life in People with Rheumatoid Arthritis" (2020). Physician Assistant Program Capstones. 56.