State of Mental Health Affects Osteoarthritis Pain

August 25, 2010

The mental health of an osteoarthritic patient may be just as important in treating for pain as the condition itself, according to a recent study.

The mental health of an osteoarthritic patient may be just as important in treating for pain as the condition itself, according to a study published in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage.

The study was highlighted in a blog post by Mark Borigini, MD, at Psychology Today. The study results indicate that the “more mentally unhealthy the osteoarthritic patient, the more painful the arthritis and the flares of that arthritis,” Borgini writes.

A sample of 266 subjects was used for the study. The subjects had hip or knee osteoarthritis and the average age was 65. The main goal was to assess whether psychological well being affects the sensation of pain in arthritic joints.

The patients were given questionnaires and pain scales were used over a 12-week period. Results demonstrated that “worsening pain was associated with worse scores on the mental health surveys,” Borgini writes. The “odds of pain flare were more than two times greater in periods with the worst mental health scores.”

In his post, Borgini suggests that since elderly patients are more at risk for side effects when taking drugs to treat their arthritis pain, mental health may “prove to be a safer therapeutic target for the pain of osteoarthritis.”

“There is a chance that some patients would benefit from psychotherapeutic interventions that improve the mental and social functioning of the individual, and in turn reduce the chronic pain,” he writes.