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Physical Activity and Health in Rheumatic Disease

Our research is mainly focused on physical activity and exercise in the rheumatic diseases.

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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

Professor/physical therapist
H1.Fysioterapi.Opava
H1 Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society

Group members

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Alyssa Dufour

Bérangère Gohy

Anne Marie Norén, Stockholm county council

Birgitta Nordgren

Emma Swärdh

Marie Heidenvall

Nina Brodin

Susanne Pettersson

Collaborators and partners, financial support

List of our collaborators and partners, including main financial support.

Doctoral theses

List of doctoral theses within the group.

Selected scientific publications

Long-term, health-enhancing physical activity is associated with reduction of pain but not pain sensitivity or improved exercise-induced hypoalgesia in persons with rheumatoid arthritis.
Löfgren M, Opava CH, Demmelmaier I, Fridén C, Lundberg IE, Nordgren B, et al
Arthritis Res. Ther. 2018 11;20(1):262

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 MAH, Das Gupta Z, Bijlsma JWJ, Boonen A, Chau J, Courvoisier DS, 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 AB, Opava CH
Rheumatol. Int. 2018 11;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 WJ, 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 AK, Niedermann K, Braun J, Adams J, Brodin N, Dagfinrud H, et al
Ann. Rheum. Dis. 2018 09;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 NM, McKenna SG, O'Neill A, Appel Esbensen B, Swinnen TW, 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 CH, 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 LH, Fridén C, Nordgren B, Opava CH, 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 IE, Nessen T, et al
J. Rheumatol. 2018 08;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 CH, Demmelmaier I, Fridén C, Lundberg IE, 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 CH, 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 07;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 AB, Nordgren B, Opava CH
Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken) 2018 05;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 WJA, 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 LH, Manouras A, Venkateshvaran A, Larsson SC, et al
J. Intern. Med. 2018 12;284(6):664-673

2016 update of the EULAR recommendations for the management of early arthritis.
Combe B, Landewe R, Daien CI, Hua C, Aletaha D, Álvaro-Gracia JM, 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 Å, Opava CH, Ahlén H, Brusewitz M, Pettersson S, Åsenlöf P
RMD Open 2016 ;2(1):e000214

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

Patients with regular physical activity before onset of rheumatoid arthritis present with milder disease.
Sandberg ME, Wedrén S, Klareskog L, Lundberg IE, Opava CH, Alfredsson L, et al
Ann. Rheum. Dis. 2014 Aug;73(8):1541-4

Who makes it to the base? Selection procedure for a physical activity trial targeting people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Nordgren B, Fridén C, Demmelmaier I, Opava CH
Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken) 2014 May;66(5):662-70

Current and maintained health-enhancing physical activity in rheumatoid arthritis: a cross-sectional study.
Demmelmaier I, Bergman P, Nordgren B, Jensen I, Opava CH
Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken) 2013 Jul;65(7):1166-76

Coaching patients with early rheumatoid arthritis to healthy physical activity: a multicenter, randomized, controlled study.
Brodin N, Eurenius E, Jensen I, Nisell R, Opava CH,
Arthritis Rheum. 2008 Mar;59(3):325-31

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