SARAH – rheumatoid arthritis management program

What is SARAH? 


Strengthening And Stretching for Rheumatoid Arthritis of the Hand 


The SARAH program is an evidence based, clinically tested, rheumatoid arthritis management program for individuals struggling with hand and wrist based rheumatoid arthritis. 


With the assistance of your certified SARAH therapist (physiotherapist or occupational therapist), individuals progress through set levels of exercises to maintain and improve function. The program is conducted under the guidance of your hand therapist as part of your overall management program.

SARAH: Strengthening and stretching for rheumatoid arthritis of the hand logo

Why is SARAH important?


  • Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common autoimmune disease in Australia. It causes joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and muscle weakness. 
  • Medication can ease RA symptoms, but patients may still have difficulty with everyday tasks. Over time, inactivity leads to muscle wasting and reduced hand function. 
  • The SARAH programme has clinically shown to improve strength and fine motor coordination of the hands. 
Woman holding an apple with arthritis in her hands

About the SARAH program


In the initial session, your SARAH certified therapist will work with you to identify goals for recovery and exercises which are both appropriate and challenging. 


Treatment is specific and targeted to each individual and ensures exercises can be completed effectively and pain free. 


Follow up sessions involve ensuring exercises are being completed effectively, progression is being tracked, exercises are being upgraded and most importantly, goals are being achieved. 


Structured sessions helps individuals establish routines and increase success with rheumatoid arthritis management once the program is completed. 

What’s involved?

Thumb test, pinch gauge, arthritis, strength test

Step 1


Assessment and management strategies education session 

Hand Therapy, Therapy Putty, Theraputty

Step 2


5 x one-on-one SARAH exercise prescription and review sessions

Melbourne Hand Therapy, Rheumatoid Arthritis massage, Hand Therapy Services

Step 3


Review of progress and patient goals

Successful outcomes


Recent comparative studies1 have shown:


  • Patients that completed SARAH in addition to usual RA care reported double the improvement in hand function and better measures of grip and pinch strength.
  • Exercise improves general muscular endurance and strength without negative effects on pain or disease progression for those with rheumatoid arthritis.
  • The SARAH programme did not result in any adverse events such as increased pain, stiffness or ‘flare-ups’.
  • An exercise program can improve daily living function and confidence to self-manage symptoms.


Exercises completed in the SARAH program are clinically proven to not cause further damage or inflammation to the affected joints. They are safe to complete and effectively maintain function.


1 Adams J, Bridle C, Dosanjh S, Heine P, Lamb SE, Lord J, McConkey C, Nichols V, Toye F, Underwood MR, Williams MA. Strengthening and stretching for rheumatoid arthritis of the hand (SARAH): design of a randomised controlled trial of a hand and upper limb exercise intervention-ISRCTN89936343. BMC musculoskeletal disorders. 2012 Dec;13(1):1-0. 
SARAH: Strengthening and stretching for rheumatoid arthritis of the hand logo

Your SARAH assessment


Baseline assessment: 

  • SARAH certified therapist initial assessment 
  • Collection of baseline outcome measures 


Education session: 

  • Pathophysiology, risk factors of rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Management strategies and advice 
  • Information regarding the SARAH program 


Initial Consultation (40 mins) $141 

The cost for splinting if required, is charged as additional 

Older woman and man gardening.

SARAH package outline


Exercise and review sessions: 

  • 5 x one-on-one sessions (20 mins each) 
  • Prescription of SARAH exercise program 
  • Instruction of exercise equipment at appropriate resistance (exercise band and exercise putty) 
  • Exercises delivered via the Physitrack exercise program 
  • Review of patient goals and progression toward achieving them 


Package Cost $497.50 (not including equipment) 

For more information


The program is conducted under the guidance of your SARAH certified hand therapist as part of your overall management program. To book an appointment please call 03 9458 5166.


Our SARAH certified hand therapists


The SARAH program can be delivered at most of our clinics conveniently located across Melbourne.


> Download SARAH program information leaflet


For enquiries and appointments please call 03 9458 5166 or conveniently book online.