Pain, fatigue and fear-avoidance beliefs in relation to physical activity and body awareness in persons diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis

Sammanfattning: Introduction: Pain and fatigue are highly common and a major concern for persons diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Having physical limitations, which have a significant effect on daily life, is also described as a major problem for persons with RA. Research findings show that a minority of persons with RA perform maintained health-enhancing physical activity (HEPA), and that psychosocial factors seem to be the most salient and consistent factors to explain variations in HEPA. Furthermore, fear of physical activity and exercise has been described as major barriers for persons with chronic pain. The ability to notice bodily inner sensations and stimuli (body awareness, BA) is described in the literature as having either a positive or a negative impact on a person’s health and well-being. However, the concept of BA is complex and therefore greater insight into this phenomenon is needed.Aim: The overall aim of this thesis was to investigate pain, fatigue and fear-avoidance beliefs in relation to physical activity and their correlates in persons with RA. A further overall aim was to develop a psychometric measurement of BA. A final overall aim was to deepen our understanding of BA in persons with RA.Methods: Study I was a psychometric evaluation of a Swedish version of the Body Awareness Questionnaire (BAQ) in a student population and in adults with RA. Studies II - III were a cross-sectional survey studies in adults with RA. Study IV was a phenomenological study using the empirical phenomenological psychological (EPP) method in adults with RA.Results: In study I, the value of Cronbach's alpha coefficients for the total score in the Swedish version of the BAQ was satisfactory. According to confirmatory factor analysis (CFA), neither a one-factor model nor a four-factor model tested in this study fulfilled the pre-specified criteria. In study II, pain was significantly associated with health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and disease activity. Fatigue was significantly associated with disease activity, BA and positive affect. The adjusted R2 was 28.6% for fatigue and 50.0% for pain. Study III showed that, for socio-demographic factors, being male and having a below average income were associated with an increased risk of high fear-avoidance beliefs about physical activity (mFABQ high). Moreover, the two disease-specific factors, which are most indicative of mFABQ high, were high level of pain and poor health. Concerning psychosocial factors, low HRQoL and low exercise self- efficacy were significantly associated with mFABQ high. The model fit was 0.27 (Nagelkerkés R2). In study IV, some general characteristics were found, which had to do with the disease giving rise to a higher degree of negatively toned BA. BA was a reactive process of searching or controlling for disease-related symptoms, or a reactive process that was triggered by emotions. In addition, BA was an active process in the sense of taking an inventory of abilities. All the participants had the ability to shift focus from BA to the outside world.Conclusions: This thesis showed that pain, fatigue and fear-avoidance beliefs about physical activity in persons with RA have several potential correlates, including socio-demographic, disease-specific and psychosocial factors for the variables investigated. The Swedish version of the BAQ is simple to administer and should be used as a tool to measure self-reported attentiveness to normal body processes. Cronbach’s alpha coefficient for the total score was satisfactory; nevertheless, since neither of the models fulfilled the pre-specified criteria further testing of the Swedish version of the BAQ is required. BA was found to be both positively and negatively toned in persons with RA, though RA resulted in a higher degree of negatively toned BA. Thus, the ability to shift attention, from BA to activities in the outside world, could sometimes be beneficial for the person’s general health and well-being. Having the opportunity to participate in meaningful and purposeful daily real-world activities keeps the mind busy (and distracted) and can decrease the negative BA.

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