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Questions and Answers about Arthritis Pain

Things You Can Do to Manage Arthritis Pain

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Get 8 to 10 hours of sleep at night.
  • Keep a daily diary of pain and mood changes to share with your physician.
  • Choose a caring physician.
  • Join a support group.
  • Stay informed about new research on managing arthritis pain.

What Research Is Being Conducted on Arthritis Pain?

NIAMS, part of the National Institutes of Health, is sponsoring research that will increase understanding of the specific ways to diagnose, treat, and possibly prevent arthritis pain.

Recent NIAMS studies show that levels of several neuropeptides (compounds produced by cells of the nervous system), such as substance P, are increased in arthritic joints. Substance P is involved in the transmission of pain signals via the nervous system. At the University of Missouri-Kansas City, researchers are studying effects of substance P in the spines of animals with chronic arthritis. Findings from this study may be used to develop specific drugs for chronic pain such as that associated with arthritis.

NIAMS studies are also looking at other aspects of pain. At the Specialized Center of Research in Osteoarthritis at Rush-Presbyterian-St Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, researchers are studying the human knee and analyzing how injury in one joint may affect other joints. In addition, they are analyzing the effect of pain and analgesics on gait (walking) and comparing pain and gait before and after surgical treatment of knee osteoarthritis.

At the University of Maryland Pain Center in Baltimore, NIAMS researchers are evaluating the use of acupuncture on patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. Preliminary findings suggest that traditional Chinese acupuncture is both safe and effective as an additional therapy for osteoarthritis, and it significantly reduces pain and improves physical function.

At Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, NIAMS researchers have developed cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) involving both patients and their spouses. The goal of CBT for arthritis pain is to help patients cope more effectively with the long-term demands of a chronic and potentially disabling disease. Researchers are studying whether aerobic fitness, coping abilities, and spousal responses to pain behaviors diminish the patient's pain and disability.

NIAMS-supported research on arthritis pain also includes projects in the Institute's Multipurpose Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases Centers. At the University of California in San Francisco, researchers are studying stress factors, including pain, that are associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Findings from this study will be used to develop patient education programs that will improve a person's ability to deal with rheumatoid arthritis and enhance their quality of life. At the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, health care professionals are monitoring joint pain in patients with osteoarthritis and documenting this information. The goal of the project is to improve doctor-patient communication about pain management and increase patient satisfaction.

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