Setting achievable goals for physical activity and supporting patients’ belief in their own ability to reach those goals may actually help relieve pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). According to a study conducted in the Netherlands—available in Arthritis Care & Research—achievement of physical activity goals is associated with lower self-reported arthritis pain and increased health-related quality of life (HRQOL).
For the current study, Keegan Knittle, MSc, from Leiden University in The Netherlands and colleagues surveyed 106 patients with RA to assess physical activity, motivation and self-efficacy for physical activity, level of arthritis pain, and quality of life. After 6 months, participants were surveyed again and asked to indicate the extent to which they achieved their baseline physical activity goal.
Results showed that 75% of participants rated their physical activity goal achievement at 50% or more. Higher levels of self-efficacy for physical activity increased the likelihood that patients would achieve their physical activity goals, and goal achievement had a direct positive effect upon quality of life outcomes. Researchers found that patients who achieved their physical activity goal reported less arthritis pain and greater quality of life. No differences were found between men and women who completed the surveys, or between patients newly diagnosed versus those with RA for 10 years or more.
Knittle concluded, "Our results suggest that an increased focus on self-efficacy enhancement, realistic goal-setting, and techniques that increase the likelihood of goal achievement will assist clinicians and researchers develop interventions that have a positive impact on pain reduction and quality of life outcomes for RA patients."