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Arthritis breakthrough: The key to easing symptoms could be in the mind suggests new study

Daily Express logo Daily Express 28/06/2022 Solen Le Net
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Rheumatoid inflammatory arthritis, which affects some 800,000 people in the UK, is a long-term condition that can inflict debilitating pain onto the joints of sufferers. Discomfort is typically concentrated in the hands, wrists and feet, but the inflammation can lead to problems in other parts of the body. A new study suggests positive thinking may offer an alternative approach to easing these symptoms.

The new study, conducted by the University of Aberdeen, has suggested talking therapies could help ease symptoms relating to pain, fatigue, and productivity of sufferers.

The findings, published in the Lancet, emerged from a series of experiments on 368 people diagnosed with a range of rheumatic conditions, who were split into three groups.

Each group received exercise sessions, talking therapy and usual care.

Results revealed that participants who received exercise sessions, or therapy, responded far better than their counterparts who received usual care.

READ MORE: Cause of pain in hands and fingers that isn't arthritis - 'see a GP'

Arthritis: Positive thinking © Getty Arthritis: Positive thinking

Professor Neil Basu, the lead investigator of the study, said: "Our study provides new evidence that some non-pharmacological interventions can be successfully and effectively delivered by non-specialist members of the clinical service.

"It has been encouraging to see that the interventions have led to improvements for participation even six months after the end of the treatment.

"It's also great to see that these steps were impactful even when delivered via telephone.

"Since the onset of the pandemic, health care services are being reimagined to incorporate greater remote care.

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"However, the evidence base to support this shift has generally been limited."

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a highly effective form of psychotherapy that focuses on thought patterns, beliefs and attitudes.

These components of the psyche heavily affect the feelings and behaviours experienced in day-to-day life.

Participants in the exercise group received 45-minute long CBT sessions delivered by health professionals over a period of 30 weeks.

READ MORE: Cause of pain in hands and fingers that isn't arthritis - 'see a GP'

Chronic pain © Getty Chronic pain

The participants who received talking therapy were offered an average of eight sessions in the same period.

The third group receiving usual care were given an educational booklet containing information on fatigue.

Doctor Neha Issar-Brown, the director of research and health intelligence at the charity Versus Arthritis, said: "Fatigue and chronic pain go hand in hand as the twin challenges for people living with inflammatory rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

"But fatigue tends not to respond to medicines for these conditions, and often goes unrecognised by clinicians."

Rheumatoid arthritis © EXPRESS.CO.UK Rheumatoid arthritis

The expert said the recent findings highlight the need for improved interventions in arthritis care in the form of non-drug treatments.

This may include cognitive behavioural therapies, and physical activity so that patients can continue to live independently, stay at work and keep their mental health in good nick.

All these factors are often taken away from patients suffering debilitating forms of arthritis, noted Dr Issar-Brown.

Sufferers tend to find their energy levels digress as the condition advances, and symptoms become increasingly debilitating.

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