Coping with Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Effect of Psychosocial Factors on Chronic Pain

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an incurable disease that affects approximately 1 per cent of the western population. It is associated with a variety of symptoms including chronic pain, stiffness and inflammation of joints, fatigue, and frequent mood changes. Because there is no cure, treatment focuses on alleviating symptoms and maintaining mobility and function. Disease factors only partially predict pain and disability among RA patients; consequently, there is growing interest in the influence of psychological and social factors on the progression of this disease. Amy Zwicker is examining the role and degree to which social support from friends and family, and effective coping strategies may help to decrease pain and increase functional ability in people living with RA. She is also examining the effects of these psychosocial factors on mood and physical well-being of patients and their spouses. Findings from her research may contribute to the development psychologically-based interventions that help RA patients deal more effectively with the pain and disability associated with the disease.