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Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2010 Dec;40(3):222-32. doi: 10.1016/j.semarthrit.2010.04.001.

A randomized trial of three psychosocial treatments for the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

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Department of Psychiatry, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



To assess and compare the benefits of 3 psychosocial treatments for rheumatoid arthritis (RA).


RA patients were randomized to cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT), relaxation response training (RR), or arthritis education (AE). All treatment was conducted in groups. Follow-up occurred immediately after treatment and 6 and 12 months later. Pain, other RA symptoms, role impairment, and psychological distress were assessed with standardized self-report questionnaires. Arthritis severity and activity were assessed with a joint examination, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, grip strength, and walking time. An intent-to-treat analytic strategy was employed. Linear regression was used to establish treatment effect on pain and other RA symptoms, while adjusting for sociodemographic and clinical variables.


One hundred sixty-eight patients were randomized. Pain improved significantly at 12 months in the RR and AE groups and showed a nonsignificant positive trend with CBT. Other RA symptoms improved significantly with CBT and AE and showed a nonsignificant trend with RR. There were no significant differences in the outcomes across the 3 treatment groups. When the results for all 3 groups were aggregated, significant benefits were found for pain, other RA symptoms, self-care activities, and social activities. Effect sizes ranged between 0.26 and 0.35.


These 3 psychosocial treatments were beneficial, with treatment effect sizes in the small to moderate range. The effects appeared immediately after treatment and were generally sustained at long-term follow-up. These benefits were achieved over and above those resulting from medical management. These treatments constitute an effective augmentation to standard medical therapy for RA patients.


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