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Arthritis and Occupational Therapy

Arthritis and Occupational Therapy

Arthritis affects about 1.5 million Americans, including rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder that causes your body’s own immune system to mistakenly attack its own joints. The effects of arthritis range from pain, inflammation and swollen joints to crippling deformities and loss of function. Arthritis can severely impact quality of life to the point of even preventing you from being able to work.

Occupational therapy helps patients enjoy life to the fullest by focusing on health, and preventing or living better with injury, illness or disability. William Dunton a supporter of the American Occupational Therapy Association, promoted the idea that occupation is a basic human need. Out of his belief that occupation is a basic human need and that occupation is therapeutic came these basic tenants of Occupational Therapy:

  • Occupation has a positive effect on health and well-being.
  • Occupation creates structure and organizes time.
  • Occupation brings meaning to life, culturally and personally.
  • Occupations are individual and valued.

Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants are specially trained to help patients who suffer from arthritis.  Since its inception in the early 1900s “OT” has focused on improving function through the use of meaningful activity (occupations), adaptive techniques and equipment.  It can be significantly effective in treating arthritis.


April is National Occupational Therapy Month. For more information, visit

Stacy Rumfelt, OTR/L, OTD, CHT, CLT contributed to this article. She is an occupational therapist, certified hand and lymphedema therapist at OrthoCarolina’s Gastonia office and specializes in the treatment of traumatic hand and orthopedic upper extremity injuries.  

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