Behavioral Interventions Can Improve Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients

Counseling sessions and text messages can help patients with rheumatoid arthritis become more active.

The combination of individual counseling sessions and text messages that motivate rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients to be more active was found to improve their overall health in a recent study.

It’s known that RA patients have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death. Furthermore, the symptoms of RA can cause patients to be more sedentary than the general population.

This barrier to maintaining a physically active lifestyle can contribute to the pain RA patients often feel. In a study presented at the European League Against Rheumatism Annual Congress (EULAR 2016), researchers sought to address the issue by reducing sedentary behavior and increasing light intensity activity.

Researchers used 75 adult patients with RA who had a sitting time of more than 5 hours and a Health Assessment Questionnaire score of less than 2.5. Participants underwent a behavior intervention that lasted 16 weeks and was individually tailored to each person.

Patients were given 3 individual motivational counseling sessions with a health care professional, as well as regular text messages that looked to improve motivation in reducing sedentary behavior and engaging in light intensity physical activity instead.

The control group consisted of 75 adult participants matched for other characteristics, who were encouraged to maintain their normal lifestyle. A wearable activity monitor was given to participants to record the daily sitting time.

The results of the study showed that in the intervention group, there was an average daily sitting time of 2.20 hours per day (p<0.0001) and a mean decrease of 1.61 hours per day after 16 weeks. In the control group, there was an increase of 0.59 hours per day.

The secondary outcomes also favored the intervention group and included self-assessment scores of physical function, fatigue, pain, and blood measurements of total cholesterol.

“We know that behavioral approaches are effective in reducing sedentary behavior in healthy populations,” said researcher Tanja Thomsen. “Our findings support the introduction of behavioral approaches as an effective way to improve the health of rheumatoid arthritis patients, which may also be applicable in other populations with chronic disease and limited mobility.”