Mental Health Affects Pain Sensitivity in Osteoarthritis Patients

July 30, 2010

Treating osteoarthritis patients with pain may include more than just assessing the pain, but assessing their mental health as well, according to a new study by researchers at UC Davis School of Medicine.

Treating osteoarthritis patients with pain may include more than just assessing the pain, but assessing their mental health as well, according to a new study by researchers at UC Davis School of Medicine.

The results of the study, “Psychological Factors and Their Relation to Osteoarthritis Pain,” published in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, demonstrate that those with better mental health felt less pain and vice versa.

“We found that increased levels of pain were associated with worse mental health at baseline,” said Barton L. Wise, an assistant professor of general internal medicine and the study’s lead author, in a press release. “And further, pain flares were associated with poorer mental health during the week prior to the pain flare.”

The research was conducted to investigate the variation of osteoarthritis pain in patients with arthritic knees or hips, Wise said.

“Pain varies over time, both over extended periods and over shorter periods,” Wise said. “The same person can feel little or no pain in their knee or hip, and later they can feel moderate-to-severe pain even when the extent of damage to the knee or hip joint as seen on x-ray imaging remains the same.”

The longitudinal study included 266 subjects with arthritis pain. The researchers investigated the relationship between pain, fluctuations in pain, and health outcomes. The subjects were interviewed via telephone and asked questions about their pain and psychological states, once a week, over a span of 12-weeks. Those with better baseline mental health scores also reported a relatively low pain score.