Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

LaVonne Fox


Arthritis -- therapy; Environment; Weather


Problem: Occupational therapists frequently provide service to patients with arthritis within a variety of settings. The symptoms of arthritis can be detrimental to a patient's ability to participate in their daily functional activities. Pain, limitation in motion and decreased strength frequently disrupt the individual's ability to complete daily activities which can have a depressing affect. Historically through today, patients report that these symptoms increase with changes in weather conditions.

Changes in barometric pressure, humidity, cold temperatures and levels of precipitation have been reported by patients to affect their arthritic symptoms and pain levels (Aikman, 1996; Guedj, 1990; McAlindon, 2007; & Jamison, 1995). These increases in pain and symptoms have created curiosity of the legitimacy of the complaints.

Traditional occupational therapy (OT) treatment generally focuses on the symptoms and limitations that the disease process targets within the exacerbation period. Minimal focus has been provided to the circumstances within each individual's environment, such as weather, for provision of treatment.

Methodology: This scholarly project focused on a review of the literature exploring the research to see if there is a relationship between pain and weather condition changes for persons suffering from arthritis. Research regarding pain levels based on changes in barometric pressure, humidity, and temperature was also reviewed. Traditional occupational therapy home program treatment and non-traditional or complementary interventions for arthritis were also reviewed.

Findings: The research for the topic of arthritic pain and its relation to changes in weather patterns has conflicting reviews; patients continue to frequently report changes in their ability to complete their daily tasks. Pain, or the perception of pain, in relation to changes in weather and environmental conditions, directly affects an individual's ability to perform functional daily living activities. Patient's perceptions, of these factors needs to be considered in the provision of interventions as clinicians design their holistic approach to treatment. Research studies reveal that psychological factors can influence pain responses during functional activities when dealing with arthritis (Gueskens, Burdorf, Evens, Hases, 2008; Peat, 2008; Braun, Lian, Orav, Ohern, Barsky, 2008; Sale, Ginnac, Hawker, 2008). So even though there are conflicting results in the research there still is supporting data in over 50% of the research reviewed. This is significant enough to still consider the role of weather as a contributing factor. Complementary therapies do not have the same level of research outcomes to support their application as traditional therapies but that does not diminish the possibilities of positive influences by complementary interventions when combined with traditional.

The Guidelines for Environmental Considerations in Occupational Therapy Home Programs for Arthritis was developed to provide ideas for the clinician regarding complementary treatment ideas in conjunction with traditional home program methods. These complementary treatment ideas are based on consideration of weather patterns that are reported often by patents to impact arthritic changes. Occupational Therapists can use this as a guide to help patients make decisions on home program activities, based on their environmental weather conditions, to enhance their daily lives.