Feasibility of a physiotherapist-led behaviour change intervention to improve physical activity in people with rheumatoid arthritis

Part of Special Series: WONCA World Rural Health Conference Abstracts 2022go to url


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Norelee Kennedy
1 Associate Professor Physiotherapy, Vice President Research *

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Louise Larkin

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Sean McKenna
3 Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist

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Tadhg Pyne
4 Research Assistant

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Stephen Gallagher
5 Professor

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Liam Glynn
6 MD, Professor of General Practice ORCID logo

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Alexander Fraser
7 Clinical Director

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Bente Esbensen
8 Professor of Nursing


*Professor Norelee Kennedy


1, 2, 3, 4 School of Allied Health, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland

5 Department of Psychology, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland

6 School of Medicine, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland

7 Department of Rheumatology, University Hospitals Limerick, Limerick, Ireland

8 Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark


10 January 2023 Volume 23 Issue 1


RECEIVED: 20 September 2022

ACCEPTED: 20 September 2022


Kennedy N, Larkin L, McKenna S, Pyne T, Gallagher S, Glynn L, Fraser A, Esbensen B.  Feasibility of a physiotherapist-led behaviour change intervention to improve physical activity in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Rural and Remote Health 2023; 23: 8103. https://doi.org/10.22605/RRH8103


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Introduction: Physical activity (PA) interventions incorporating behaviour change (BC) theory are needed to improve PA levels in people with rheumatoid arthritis. A pilot feasibility study of a Physiotherapist-led Intervention to Promote PA in Rheumatoid Arthritis (PIPPRA) was undertaken to obtain estimates for recruitment rate, participant retention and protocol adherence.

Methods: Participants were recruited at University Hospital (UH) rheumatology clinics and randomly assigned to control group (physical activity information leaflet) or intervention group (four BC physiotherapy sessions in 8 weeks). Inclusion criteria were diagnosis of RA (ACR/EULAR 2010 classification criteria), aged 18+ years and classified as insufficiently physically active. Ethical approval was obtained from the UH research ethics committee. Participants were assessed at baseline (T0), 8 weeks (T1) and 24 weeks (T2). Descriptive statistics and t-tests were used to analyse the data with SPSS v22.

Results: 320 participants were approached about the study with n=183 (57%) eligible to participate and n=58 (55%) consented to participate (recruitment rate: 6.4 per month; refusal rate 59%). Due to the impact of COVID-19 on the study, n=25 (43%) participants completed the study (n=11 (44%) intervention and n=14 (56%) control). Of the 25, n=23 (92%) were female, mean age was 60 years (s.d. 11.5). Intervention group participants completed 100% of BC sessions 1 and 2, 88% completed session 3 and 81% completed session 4.

Discussion: The intervention to promote physical activity was feasible and safe and provides a framework for larger intervention studies. Based on these findings, a fully powered trial is recommended.

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