50 Most Influential OT Research Articles

Curious to know the most influential research coming out that is relevant to OT? Here is a list of the 50 most cited journal articles containing OT from the past 5 years. I hope this is helpful as you continue to pursue best practices and evidence based practice!

We become occupational therapists so we can provide holistic care to our clients.

We want to flex our creative muscles and exercise our compassion. We want to work alongside patients, sharing their joy and their pain—serving as guides as they reclaim their lives.

But for all the “softer” reasons that draw us to the profession, we OTs also have a strong analytical side.

We choose our career, on some level, for love of the science that holds it all together.

I say this because I want you to dive into this article with true love for OT in your heart. With a deep commitment to why we fell in love with our profession in the first place, and why it is vital that we stay current with research, even when we feel pulled in 10 different directions in a single day.

But let me step back for a moment, and let you know why I’m writing this article :-)

Why keeping up with medical developments is the biggest challenge of our OT generation

It’s no secret that medical professionals are having a tough time these days.

We shuttle from patient to patient, focused more on billable units and clunky EMRs than actual therapy.

And when we feel this way for too long, our thirst for new knowledge dies down.

We stop thinking about research as a method to further improve our patients’ lives, and instead consider it just another task to be completed. And, sadly, it’s a task that keeps getting pushed to the side as we focus on slogging through our days.

We OTs are affected each day by decreasing reimbursement and stagnating salaries—not to mention increased productivity expectations—and there’s no secret about it.

At least we’re talking about it, which is great.

However, the focus on burnout, productivity, and EMR headaches has masked an even more massive shift––and this might be the most troubling one at all. In fact, I will go so far as to say this will be the true challenge of our generation of occupational therapists:

We are not keeping up with medical advancements.

Recent years have shown an exponential growth of medical knowledge and discoveries—but we’re doing a TERRIBLE job of keeping up with these advances.

Here’s what I mean.

Consider this excerpt from a medical journal, where the authors are discussing the rapid advancement of medical knowledge (discoveries, advancements, research, etc.):  

It is estimated that the doubling time of medical knowledge in 1950 was 50 years; in 1980, 7 years; and in 2010, 3.5 years. In 2020 it is projected to be 0.2 years—just 73 days. Students who began medical school in the autumn of 2010 will experience approximately three doublings in knowledge by the time they complete the minimum length of training (7 years) needed to practice medicine. Students who graduate in 2020 will experience four doublings in knowledge. What was learned in the first 3 years of medical school will be just 6% of what is known at the end of the decade from 2010 to 2020.

That’s a lot of numbers, and I had to read it about ten times to really absorb what it meant, and how profound its implications are. The gist is that we’re making insanely huge medical advancements and discoveries, but the info just isn’t being delivered to the actual clinicians for integration into our practice.

To quote the author:

“Knowledge is expanding faster than our ability to assimilate and apply it effectively; and this is as true in education and patient care as it is in research.”

Yes, it’s scary, but we OTs are hardly alone; this phenomenon is a problem throughout the medical field.

But, that does not let us as OTs off the hook.

I created this platform in 2012 with a simple mission: to share what is (and isn't) working in our OT practice.

Recently, my heart has really been pushing me to undertake the issue of evidence-based practice. I am so eager to help fight this information underload problem in our profession and help point you in the direction of resources that can elevate your profession—and are backed by science.

Will we be able to do it perfectly?


Will it be a huge learning curve?


But here’s to trying...together.

With that said, I’d like to share:

The 50 most-cited OT articles from the past five years

Just looking at this title makes my blood pump a little faster. Sifting through mountains of articles just to get to the top 50 articles is a lot of work, and when I started researching for this article, it felt overwhelming.

Luckily, I was able to team up with a research librarian to make this article happen.

I wanted to begin by looking at which articles were having the biggest impact throughout the medical community, and also mentioned OT.

Here are the articles, ranked by the number of times they were cited throughout medical literature:

  1. An integrated palliative and respiratory care service for patients with advanced disease and refractory breathlessness: A randomised controlled trial (2014) The Lancet Respiratory Medicine

  2. Interdisciplinary chronic pain management (2014) American Psychologist

  3. Increased hospital-based physical rehabilitation and information provision after intensive care unit discharge: The RECOVER randomized clinical trial (2015) JAMA Internal Medicine

  4. Stem cells as an emerging paradigm in stroke 3 enhancing the development of clinical trials (2014) Stroke

  5. Effect of a task-oriented rehabilitation program on upper extremity recovery following motor stroke the ICARE randomized clinical trial (2016) JAMA - Journal of the American Medical Association

  6. Is a specialist breathlessness service more effective and cost-effective for patients with advanced cancer and their carers than standard care? Findings of a mixed-method randomised controlled trial (2014) BMC Medicine

  7. Efficacy of occupational therapy for patients with Parkinson's disease: A randomised controlled trial (2014) The Lancet Neurology

  8. An intervention for sensory difficulties in children with autism: A randomized trial (2014) Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

  9. Geriatric assessment-guided care processes for older adults: A Delphi consensus of geriatric oncology experts (2015) JNCCN Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network

  10. Feasibility and safety of early combined cognitive and physical therapy for critically ill medical and surgical patients: The Activity and Cognitive Therapy in ICU (ACT-ICU) trial (2014) Intensive Care Medicine

  11. Rehabilitation of motor function after stroke: A multiple systematic review focused on techniques to stimulate upper extremity recovery (2016) Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

  12. Universal newborn screening for congenital CMV infection: What is the evidence of potential benefit? (2014) Reviews in Medical Virology

  13. Feasibility of articulated arm mounted oculus rift virtual reality goggles for adjunctive pain control during occupational therapy in pediatric burn patients (2014) Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking

  14. 2016 update of the EULAR recommendations for the management of early arthritis (2017) Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases

  15. An International Definition for "Nursing Home" (2015) Journal of the American Medical Directors Association

  16. Screening for autism spectrum disorder in young children US preventive services task force recommendation statement (2016) JAMA - Journal of the American Medical Association

  17. A task-specific interactive game-based virtual reality rehabilitation system for patients with stroke: A usability test and two clinical experiments (2014) Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation

  18. Rehabilitation for Parkinson's disease: Current outlook and future challenges (2016) Parkinsonism and Related Disorders

  19. Connectivity measures are robust biomarkers of cortical function and plasticity after stroke (2015) Brain

  20. A perioperative cost analysis comparing single-level minimally invasive and open transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (2014) Spine Journal

  21. Complex regional pain syndrome : An optimistic perspective (2015) Neurology

  22. Occupational therapy code of ethics (2015) American Journal of Occupational Therapy

  23. Cognitive symptom management and rehabilitation therapy (CogSMART) for veterans with traumatic brain injury: Pilot randomized controlled trial (2014) Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development

  24. Intravenous Bisphosphonate Therapy of Young Children with Osteogenesis Imperfecta: Skeletal Findings during Follow Up Throughout the Growing Years (2015) Journal of Bone and Mineral Research

  25. Work-focused cognitive-behavioural therapy and individual job support to increase work participation in common mental disorders: A randomised controlled multicentre trial (2015) Occupational and Environmental Medicine

  26. Weekly variation in health-care quality by day and time of admission: a nationwide, registry-based, prospective cohort study of acute stroke care (2016) The Lancet

  27. Priority setting partnership to identify the top 10 research priorities for the management of parkinson's disease (2015) BMJ Open

  28. PLAY project home consultation intervention program for young children with autism spectrum disorders: A randomized controlled trial (2014) Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics

  29. Cortical changes underlying balance recovery in patients with hemiplegic stroke (2014) NeuroImage

  30. Belonging, occupation, and human well-being: An exploration (2014) Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy

  31. Feasibility of high-repetition, task-specific training for individuals with upper-extremity paresis (2014) American Journal of Occupational Therapy

  32. Virtual reality for upper extremity rehabilitation in early stroke: A pilot randomized controlled trial (2014) Clinical Rehabilitation

  33. Upper limb robot-assisted therapy in cerebral palsy: A single-blind randomized controlled trial (2015) Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair

  34. Locomotion improvement using a hybrid assistive limb in recovery phase stroke patients: A randomized controlled pilot study (2014) Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

  35. EFNS/ENS Consensus on the diagnosis and management of chronic ataxias in adulthood (2014) European Journal of Neurology

  36. Burnout among physicians (2014) Libyan Journal of Medicine

  37. Effect of early rehabilitation during intensive care unit stay on functional status: Systematic review and meta-analysis (2015) PLoS ONE

  38. Improving functional disability and cognition in parkinson disease randomized controlled trial (2014) Neurology

  39. The prevalence of potentially modifiable functional deficits and the subsequent use of occupational and physical therapy by older adults with cancer (2015) Journal of Geriatric Oncology

  40. Extended roles for allied health professionals: An updated systematic review of the evidence (2014) Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare

  41. A qualitative study exploring the usability of nintendo wii fit among persons with multiple sclerosis (2014) Occupational Therapy International

  42. Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy vs No Therapy in mild to moderate Parkinson disease (2016) JAMA Neurology

  43. An environmental scan for early mobilization practices in U.S. ICUs (2015) Critical Care Medicine

  44. Impact of early mobilization on glycemic control and ICU-acquired weakness in critically ill patients who are mechanically ventilated (2014) Chest

  45. Patterns of sensory processing in children with an autism spectrum disorder (2014) Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders

  46. Translating knowledge in rehabilitation: Systematic review (2015) Physical Therapy

  47. Collaborative approach in the development of high-performance brain-computer interfaces for a neuroprosthetic arm: Translation from animal models to human control (2014) Clinical and Translational Science

  48. Structural white matter changes in descending motor tracts correlate with improvements in motor impairment after undergoing a treatment course of tDCS and physical therapy (2015) Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

  49. Professional perspectives on service user and carer involvement in mental health care planning: A qualitative study (2015) International Journal of Nursing Studies

  50. The effect of multidisciplinary rehabilitation on brain structure and cognition in Huntington's disease: An exploratory study (2015) Brain and Behavior


Hopefully, in this list you find some articles that could help you provide up-to-date, evidence based care for to your clients.

If you would like to dig into these articles further, I invite you to join the OT Potential Club.

The OT Potential Club is an online journal club, and each week I will be reviewing an article from this list. I’ll do my best to make the review actionable for you and provide assessment and documentation tips whenever applicable.