Pain Limits Function in Osteoarthritis, Even with a "Can Do" AttitudeHeart disease is the number one killer of women over age 50 in the United States today. But pain from knee osteoarthritis (OA) is the number one cause of disability among this same group. And the number of women affected by OA is expected to rise in the next 10 years.
A physical therapist at the University of Kentucky focused on this topic in a recent study. Two questions were asked: How much does the severity of OA affect pain, balance, and self-efficacy? How much do pain, balance, and self-efficacy affect function?
Self-efficacy is a person's belief that he or she can or can't do a task or activity. Research shows that self-efficacy is linked to whether or not a person will try new things. The amount and length of effort put in are also related to self- efficacy.
Fifty women over age 50 with knee OA were included in this study. A special scale called the WOMAC scale (Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index) was used to measure pain and function. The author found that balance was linked to function. The better the person's balance, the more improved his or her physical function.
The same was true of self-efficacy. As the person's self-efficacy increased, physical performance got better. But pain got in the way of self-efficacy. Even if a patient thought she could do an activity, pain levels could keep her from succeeding.
The findings of this study suggest that patients can get greater control over their pain and function. One way to do this is through education. Patients need to know more about OA and what to expect. Learning may increase self-efficacy, which in turn, helps people face their challenges.
Anne L. Harrison, PT, PhD. The Influence of Pathology, Pain, Balance, and Self-efficacy on Function in Women With Osteoarthritis of the Knee. In Physical Therapy. September 2004. Vol. 84. No. 9. Pp. 822-831.
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