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Positive attitude linked to fewer rheumatoid arthritis symptoms

Patients in a study reported more or less pain depending on their momentary moods throughout the day.

By Stephen Feller
Positive attitude linked to fewer rheumatoid arthritis symptoms
Researchers in a study found a link between momentary positive and negative emotion and the intensity of symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis patients. Photo by Hriana/Shutterstock

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., July 30 (UPI) -- Researchers found that rheumatoid arthritis patients who reported more positive mood moments during the day had less pain and fewer arthritis-related restrictions than those who reported greater depressive symptoms.

Arthritis is known to cause depression in patients because of pain that restricts movements and activities. Where previous studies have linked end-of-day mood to increased or decreased pain among arthritis patients, this is the first to measure mood throughout the day.

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"The results of this study link momentary positive and negative mood with momentary pain in daily life," said Jennifer Graham-Engeland, an associate professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State University, in a press release. "That is, we found evidence consistent with a common, but largely untested, contention that mood in the moment is associated with fluctuation in pain and pain-related restrictions."

Researchers gave 152 participants in the study cellphones that prompted them to report their mood and pain level 5 to 7 times a day. The phone also asked them to rate pain, swelling, stiffness, and arthritis-related restrictions to routines and activities 5 times during the day.

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The ratings and reviews showed that patients with more negative or depressive mood moments throughout the day experience greater pain and discomfort, while those with more positive ratings experience fewer.

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"Several of our analyses suggest that momentary positive mood is more robustly associated with momentary pain than negative mood," Graham-Engeland said.

The study suggests that targeting depression and negative emotion could help people arthritis better handle the condition, however the researchers said more work will need to be done to answer questions about causality and directionality of the effects of mood correction in order to ease pain.

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The study is published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

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