Abstract Objective To quantify modification of functional capacity in a three year period in a group of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) using HAQ and EPM‐ROM inventories. Methods Forty patients with RA on methotrexate (MTX) as disease‐modifying anti rheumatic drug (DMARD) were followed for up to three years. The functional status was assessed at the beginning and end of the period by HAQ and EPM‐ROM. Results Thirty two patients were retrieved, with initial HAQ score of 1.14±0.49 (mean±SD) and EPM‐ROM score of 5.8±2.75. After an average period of three years, the HAQ score was 1.13±0.49 and EPM‐ROM score, 6.81±3.66. In the subgroup of seven patients submitted to orthopedic surgery, HAQ score decreased from 0.84±0.72 to 1.64±0.56 and the EPM‐ROM score, from 5.8±1.80 to 8.3±0.74. In the subgroup of non‐operated patients, HAQ score varied from of 1.2±0.45 to 1.07±0.70 and EPM‐ROM score, from 5.7±3.06 to 6.4±3.90. Conclusion In a group of RA patients in use of only MTX as DMARD, there was little change on HAQ score and EPM‐ROM scores over the average period of three years. Worsening functional capacity was observed in the group of operated patients in comparison to the not operated ones. This fact alerts us to the need for use of regimens and broader availability of musculoskeletal surgeries in a timely manner in patients with RA.