Circadian Rhythm and Pain

Published Online: Wednesday, January 1, 2003

According to the findings of a study reported in the December 2002 issue of the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, a patient?s body clock and the occurrence of arthritis stiffness and pain are closely related. The study lasted for 10 days, during which 21 women with osteoarthritis in their hands were asked to rate their pain and stiffness levels on waking, at bedtime, and every 4 hours in between. The average age of the women was 62, and none were taking steroids. The women also performed timed manual dexterity tests.

For 75% of the participants, morning and bedtime were the periods of greatest pain, and the pain was lowest in mid-afternoon. Afternoon was also the best time for performing the manual dexterity tasks. Clearly there is some connection between a person?s circadian rhythm and arthritic discomfort. It is possible that additional studies will help identify when during the day a given patient should take a given drug for maximum benefit.

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