Dec. 9, 2002 — If your arthritis pain seems to strike like clockwork, you’re right. Most people with arthritis have less stiffness and pain in their hands late in the day. In fact, a new study suggests that arthritis sufferers might schedule their daily activities, even their medications, around this pattern.
The study appears in the December issue of Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
Previous research has described pain patterns that seem synchronized with circadian rhythms, the body’s natural biological rhythm that governs sleep and other bodily functions, explains N. Bellamy, MD, researcher at the Mayne Medical School in Brisbane, Australia.
In this study, Bellamy and colleagues asked 21 patients with osteoarthritis in their hands to keep a diary. Each documented his or her pain and stiffness six times during the day — when they woke up in the morning, at bedtime, and every four hours in between — for 10 consecutive days.
Researchers found that overall, the patients’ pain was least in the late afternoon — a few minutes after 4 p.m. Dexterity was best just shortly before 4 p.m.
They advise patients with osteoarthritis to schedule activities around their pain pattern. In addition, the researchers say these findings may help patients and their doctors determine the best time to take medications.
SOURCE: Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, December 2002.