Depression and Mood Influence Pain in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients

Researchers report that in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), greater positive mood throughout daily life was linked to less pain and fewer RA-related restrictions, while negative mood was linked to an increase in RA-related restrictions.

Pain in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients may be predicted by mood and depressive symptoms, according to findings published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

Researchers from Penn State University measured depressive symptoms in 31 RA patients in order to determine if mood predicted momentary pain in RA patients. The researchers used surveys to assess mood and RA across five points in the patients’ daily lives for seven consecutive days. The researchers additionally incorporated factors like gender, age, weekend day, time of day, and experiences of stress. The investigators noted that prior research has established a relationship between pain and mood, but that for specific people there has been little research conducted to establish the connection.

“Although it is relatively common to hear people in everyday life acknowledging that their mood can exacerbate their physical pain, most evidence for this view is derived from cross sectional comparisons, longitudinal associations over fairly lengthy periods of time, such as months or years, or laboratory studies where mood and/or pain are manipulated, as opposed to naturally occurring in everyday life,” study author Jennifer E. Graham-Engeland, PhD, explained in a press release.

Greater positive mood throughout daily life was linked to less pain and fewer RA-related restrictions throughout the day, the researchers found. Conversely, negative mood was linked to more RA-related restrictions. The participants that reported greater depressive symptoms also reported more common pain and restrictions at the data points. But, the researchers added, the effect of depressive symptoms was not due to variations in day to day mood.

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

Using multifaceted interventions targeting both mood and depressive in combination with nontraditional interventions in conjunction with pharmaceutical therapy may be the optimum treatment for pain relief in RA patients with pain related quality of life concerns, the authors said.

However, there are still some known factors, the researchers said, especially about the causality and directionality of effects. Current research around the topic suggests that depression interventions and momentary mood therapies might be beneficial for RA patients and chronic pain patients on a broader scale.