Have Arthritis? Get Marriage Counseling

Strong, positive marriages can help rheumatoid arthritis patients cope better.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful and debilitating condition, but a study reported in The Journal of Pain, published by the American Pain Society, shows that being in a strong, non-distressed marriage is associated with experiencing less pain and enjoying better functioning and quality of life.

Researchers conducting a multicenter study involving 255 patients examined the relationships of marital status and marital adjustment to pain and physical disability in RA patients. The key objective was to examine differences in health status of RA patients who are in strong marriages, distressed marriages or are unmarried. The authors hypothesized that marital adjustment would be associated with better health status.

Marital adjustment was measured by the Locke-Wallace Marital Adjustment Scale, disease activity was assessed by rheumatologists performing a full 32 joint examination for tenderness and swelling, pain was measured using the McGill Pain Questionnaire, and physical and psychological disability was evaluated by Arthritis Impact Measurement Scales.

The researchers reported that among married subjects, better martial adjustment was associated with less psychological disability and marginally less pain. The findings strongly suggest that being married may have benefits for health status, provided the marriage is well adjusted or, at least, not distressed. A key implication of the study is that using marital status as an indicator of social support for RA patients might not be inadequate, and clinicians must consider the level of adjustment or distress in the relationship when determining the degree and benefit of social support from the spouse.

Based in Glenview, Ill., the American Pain Society (APS) is a multidisciplinary community that brings together a diverse group of scientists, clinicians and other professionals to increase the knowledge of pain and transform public policy and clinical practice to reduce pain-related suffering. APS was founded in 1978 with 510 charter members. From the outset, the group was conceived as a multidisciplinary organization. APS has enjoyed solid growth since its early days and today has approximately 3,200 members. The Board of Directors includes physicians, nurses, psychologists, basic scientists, pharmacists, policy analysts and more.

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