emotional health

Using Spirituality, Religion to Help Cope with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Christine Miller Health Guide January 14, 2008
  • Normally, I think that spirituality and religion are extremely personal and I wouldn't raise it as a topic of discussion on this site. But I recently read an interesting article in the January 2008 issue of Arthritis and Rheumatism about the daily spiritual experiences of older adults with and without arthritis and how these experiences affect health outcomes.

     

    The article reported that studies in past years have found that spirituality can be an important psychological influence on both physical and mental health and that spirituality has been associated with better health outcomes for conditions such as depression, cardiovascular conditions, and cancer. It has also been reported that spirituality is an important coping mechanism for pain. It has also been reported that prayer is the most common alternative medicine practice among some urban, low-income patients.

     

    This study used an evaluation called "the Daily Spiritual Experience Scale (DSES)". This tool evaluates the frequency of specific, common spiritual experiences that occur in everyday life, over many religious and cultural groups. It measures experiences such as feelings of connection and support, gratitude, compassion and inner peace. It found that 80% of the participants whether they had arthritis or not, reported having daily spiritual experiences either most days or many times each day. DSE were most common among African American women and least frequent among white men.

     

    The part of the study I thought most interesting, was that participants with arthritis were more likely than people without arthritis to find strength and comfort in their religion/spirituality and were more likely to trust or accept help from their spiritual source.

    This was the case even though participants with arthritis were no different from people without arthritis as far as religious affiliation or frequency of attendance at religious services. More than 50% or the participants had some form of arthritis and they were more likely to report daily spiritual experiences than participants with other chronic illnesses. Also, 80% of the people with arthritis reported that they turn to their religion/spirituality daily for comfort or strength.

     

    Do you find that your religion or spiritual beliefs help you to cope with your arthritis, either through helping you manage your pain or helping you maintain a positive outlook? Do you use prayer or spiritual meditation as an alternative treatment? Please share your thoughts.