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13-06-2017 | Osteoarthritis | Article

The effects of resistance training on muscle strength, joint pain, and hand function in individuals with hand osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Arthritis Research & Therapy

Authors: Nicoló Edoardo Magni, Peter John McNair, David Andrew Rice

Publisher: BioMed Central



Hand osteoarthritis is a common condition characterised by joint pain and muscle weakness. These factors are thought to contribute to ongoing disability. Some evidence exists that resistance training decreases pain, improves muscle strength, and enhances function in people with knee and hip osteoarthritis. However, there is currently a lack of consensus regarding its effectiveness in people with hand osteoarthritis. Therefore, the aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to establish whether resistance training in people with hand osteoarthritis increases grip strength, decreases joint pain, and improves hand function.


Seven databases were searched from 1975 until July 1, 2016. Randomised controlled trials were included. The Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool was used to assess studies’ methodological quality. The Grade of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation system was adopted to rate overall quality of evidence. Suitable studies were pooled using a random-effects meta-analysis.


Five studies were included with a total of 350 participants. The majority of the training programs did not meet recommended intensity, frequency, or progression criteria for muscle strengthening. There was moderate-quality evidence that resistance training does not improve grip strength (mean difference = 1.35; 95% confidence interval (CI) = –0.84, 3.54; I 2 = 50%; p = 0.23 ). Low-quality evidence showed significant improvements in joint pain (standardised mean difference (SMD) = –0.23; 95% CI = –0.42, –0.04; I 2 = 0%; p = 0.02) which were not clinically relevant. Low-quality evidence demonstrated no improvements in hand function following resistance training (SMD = –0.1; 95% CI = –0.33, 0.13; I 2 = 28%; p = 0.39).


There is no evidence that resistance training has a significant effect on grip strength or hand function in people with hand osteoarthritis. Low-quality evidence suggests it has a small, clinically unimportant pain-relieving effect. Future studies should investigate resistance training regimes with adequate intensity, frequency, and progressions to achieve gains in muscle strength.

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