Skip to main content

Physical Activity and Health in Rheumatic Disease

Research focus

Our research mainly focuses physical activity and exercise in the rheumatic diseases in intervention studies and implementation studies, development and adaptation of assessment methods and exploration of patients’ and care givers’ perspectives on physical activity. Our research is translational and multiprofessional and performed in collaboration with researchers from multiple universities in Sweden and abroad.

Research projects/activities

  • Physical activity in rheumatoid arthritis – the PARA 2010 study
  • Co creation of an internet service to support physical activity – the tRAppen project
  • Rheumatology patients’ and health professionals' awareness of physical activity measures. A survey across four European countries
  • Barriers and complications related to physical activity in rheumatic conditions
  • Promotion of a healthy lifestyle in rheumatology – the LIR project
  • Implementation of best practice management to prevent osteoarthritis-related disability and comorbidity in rural India
  • ICF mapping of physical ability for persons with long-term musculoskeletal pain
  • Sense of coherence and self-efficacy as predictors of activity capacity after wrist fracture
  • Determinants of functional outcomes after trauma in humanitarian settings

Group leader


Christina Helging Opava

Telefon: 08-524 888 80
Enhet: Sektionen för fysioterapi

Group members

Research group

Alyssa Dufour

Bérangère Gohy

Anne Marie Norén, Stockholm county council

Birgitta Nordgren

Emma Swärdh

Marie Heidenvall

Nina Brodin

Susanne Pettersson

Other collaborators or partners

European League Against Rheumatism, Zürich, Switzerland

Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA

Médecins sans frontièrs, Brussels, Belgium

Pravara Institute of Medical Sciences, Indien

Rehabilitation International, Brussels, Belgium

The Swedish Rheumatism Association

University of Copenhagen, Rigshospitalet, Denmark

Strategic Research Area Health Care Science (SFO-V), KI/UmU

Swedish Rheumatology Quality Register

University of Limerick, Ireland

University of Leuven, Belgien


Financial support

Doctoral theses

Thomas Nessen, Learning to guide behavior change : physical therapists’ promotion of health-enhancing physical activity in people with rheumatoid arthritis, PhD 2016

Åsa Revenäs, Co-designing a mobile Internet service for self-management of physical activity in rheumatoid arthritis PhD 2016

Birgitta Nordgren, Health-enhancing physical activity in rheumatioid arthritis. Prevalence, intervention and assessment. PhD 2014

Emma Swärdh Sjöquist, Promoting physical activity in rheumatoid arthritis. Aspects of coaching in physical therapy, PhD 2013

Anne Marie Norén, Activities with balance limitations among patients with peripheral arthritis. Description and assessment, licentiate 2008

Nina Brodin, Physical activity and health perception in inflammatory joint disease. A physiotherapy perspective, PhD 2008

Annica Wohlin-Wottrich, On aspects of context in rehabilitation after stroke : views of patients and therapeutists, licentiate 2006

Ingrid Lindquist, Learning in physiotherapy, PhD 2006

Eva Eurenius, Physical activity, physical capacity and health in rheumatoid arthritis, PhD 2006

Marie André, Education, foot assessment and treatment in juvenile idiopathic arthritis, PhD 2005

Ulla Levin, Sacroiliac pain provocation testing in physiotherapy, PhD 2004

Selected scientific publications


The International Consortium for Health Outcome Measurement (ICHOM)Set of Outcomes that Matter to People Living with Inflammatory Arthritis Consensus from an international Working Group.
Oude Voshaar M, Das Gupta Z, Bijlsma J, Boonen A, Chau J, Courvoisier D, et al
Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken) 2018 Oct;():

Associations between fatigue and physical capacity in people moderately affected by rheumatoid arthritis.
Demmelmaier I, Pettersson S, Nordgren B, Dufour A, Opava C
Rheumatol. Int. 2018 Nov;38(11):2147-2155

Mapping a measure of physical ability for persons with long-term musculoskeletal pain to the ICF and ICF Core Sets.
Fresk M, Brodin N, Grooten W, Joseph C, Kiessling A
Eur J Public Health 2019 04;29(2):286-291

2018 EULAR recommendations for physical activity in people with inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Rausch Osthoff A, Niedermann K, Braun J, Adams J, Brodin N, Dagfinrud H, et al
Ann. Rheum. Dis. 2018 Sep;77(9):1251-1260

A survey across four European countries to determine rheumatology health professionals' awareness of physical activity measures in people with inflammatory joint diseases.
Kennedy N, McKenna S, O'Neill A, Appel Esbensen B, Swinnen T, Nordgren B, et al
BMJ Open 2018 05;8(5):e020809

Physiotherapists' Adoption of a Theory-Based Skills Training Program in Guiding People with Rheumatoid Arthritis to Health-Enhancing Physical Activity.
Nessen T, Opava C, Demmelmaier I
Int J Behav Med 2018 Aug;25(4):438-447

Impaired left atrial dynamics and its improvement by guided physical activity reveal left atrial strain as a novel early indicator of reversible cardiac dysfunction in rheumatoid arthritis.
Venkateshvaran A, Sarajlic P, Lund L, Fridén C, Nordgren B, Opava C, et al
Eur J Prev Cardiol 2018 07;25(10):1106-1108

An Outsourced Health-enhancing Physical Activity Program for People with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Study of the Maintenance Phase.
Nordgren B, Fridén C, Demmelmaier I, Bergström G, Lundberg I, Nessen T, et al
J. Rheumatol. 2018 Aug;45(8):1093-1100

Pain sensitivity at rest and during muscle contraction in persons with rheumatoid arthritis: a substudy within the Physical Activity in Rheumatoid Arthritis 2010 study.
Löfgren M, Opava C, Demmelmaier I, Fridén C, Lundberg I, Nordgren B, et al
Arthritis Res. Ther. 2018 03;20(1):48

Physiotherapists' management of challenging situations in guiding people with rheumatoid arthritis to health-enhancing physical activity.
Nessen T, Opava C, Martin C, Demmelmaier I
Physiother Theory Pract 2019 Jan;35(1):31-39

Improved Hand Function, Self-Rated Health, and Decreased Activity Limitations: Results After a Two-Month Hand Osteoarthritis Group Intervention.
Bjurehed L, Brodin N, Nordenskiöld U, Björk M
Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken) 2018 Jul;70(7):1039-1045

Trajectories of Fear-Avoidance Beliefs on Physical Activity Over Two Years in People With Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Demmelmaier I, Björk A, Dufour A, Nordgren B, Opava C
Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken) 2018 May;70(5):695-702

The McMaster Toronto Arthritis patient preference questionnaire (MACTAR): a methodological study of reliability and minimal detectable change after a 6 week-period of acupuncture treatment in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
Brodin N, Grooten W, Stråt S, Löfberg E, Alexanderson H
BMC Res Notes 2017 Dec;10(1):687

Enhanced ventricular-arterial coupling during a 2-year physical activity programme in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a prospective substudy of the physical activity in rheumatoid arthritis 2010 trial.
Sarajlic P, Fridén C, Lund L, Manouras A, Venkateshvaran A, Larsson S, et al
J. Intern. Med. 2018 Dec;284(6):664-673

2016 update of the EULAR recommendations for the management of early arthritis.
Combe B, Landewe R, Daien C, Hua C, Aletaha D, Álvaro-Gracia J, et al
Ann. Rheum. Dis. 2017 Jun;76(6):948-959

Mobile internet service for self-management of physical activity in people with rheumatoid arthritis: evaluation of a test version.
Revenäs �, Opava C, Ahlén H, Brusewitz M, Pettersson S, Åsenlöf P
RMD Open 2016 ;2(1):e000214

Towards evidence-based hand exercises in rheumatoid arthritis.
Opava C, Björk M
Lancet 2015 Jan;385(9966):396-8





Other selected publications

Opava CH (Editor). Physical activity in rheumatic disease. Lund: Studentlitteratur, 2014 (In Swedish)

Opava CH, Björk M, Pettersson S. Care and rehabilitation in rheumatic diseases. In Klareskog L, Saxne T, Rudin A, Rönnblom L, Enman Y (eds.). Rheumatology, 3rd edition. Lund: Studentlitteratur, 2017 (in Swedish)

Bearne L, Opava CH. Physical activity and exercise. In: Scott D, Galloway J, Cope A, Pratt A, Strand V. the Oxford Textbook on Rheumatoid Arthritis. Oxford University Press, accepted