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Posted 09.13.05

Reducing Stress Plays Key Role in Pain Management, MU Researchers Say

COLUMBIA, MO -- People dealing with a chronic disease are particularly vulnerable to stress that affects their lives on every level. Their bodies are constantly dealing with physiological, cognitive and emotional stressors that result from their conditions.  A research project at the University of Missouri-Columbia uses the Internet to provide relief to people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis by offering support and self-management techniques.

"The single fastest thing to do to help control stress is deep breathing," said Kathy Donovan Hanson, senior researcher at the Missouri Arthritis Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (MARRTC). "Other stress control techniques include getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, eating properly, exercising and utilizing relaxation techniques."

People who deal with rheumatoid arthritis endure physical stressors such as pain, stiffness and inflammation, which often affect their mood and ability to focus and think clearly. Stress is an essential coping mechanism that ensures survival; however, it takes a toll on the body when it becomes a constant daily companion. Persistent stress can cause high blood pressure, recurrent headaches and gastro-intestinal disturbances.

Managing stress can occur on two levels: avoiding situations and factors that produce stress and learning to cope with stress when it cannot be avoided. Devoting time to things you enjoy and staying focused on the "here and now" instead of worrying about things you can't control is important, Donovan Hanson said.

"Take time to transition between the different roles in your life," Donovan Hanson said. "Do not worry about personal stuff while you are at work; do not take work home with you."

The MU research program evaluates the effectiveness of an online arthritis self-management program that has previously been proven effective in a clinical setting. The program includes 10 lessons on topics such as fatigue, managing stress and pain, coping with change and emotional responses. Each topic includes talking with an experienced facilitator by telephone. Interaction with others who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis is also part of the program.


Editor's Note: More information on the study and how to participate is available at or by calling 1-888-740-6626.


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