Living with rheumatoid arthritis: the role of daily spirituality and daily religious and spiritual coping

J Pain. 2001 Apr;2(2):101-10. doi: 10.1054/jpai.2001.19296.


The objective of this preliminary study was to evaluate more fully the role of daily spiritual experiences and daily religious/spiritual coping in the experience of individuals with pain due to rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Thirty-five individuals with RA were asked to keep a structured daily diary for 30 consecutive days. The diary included standardized measures designed to assess spiritual experiences, religious and spiritual pain coping, salience of religion in coping, religious/spiritual coping efficacy, pain, mood, and perceived social support. The participants in this study reported having spiritual experiences, such as feeling touched by the beauty of creation or feeling a desire to be closer or in union with God, on a relatively frequent basis. These participants also reported using positive religious and spiritual coping strategies much more frequently than negative religious and spiritual coping strategies. Although most of the variance in these measures was due to differences between persons, each measure also displayed a significant variability in scores from day to day. Indeed, there was just as much (or more) variability in these measures over time as there was variability in pain. Individuals who reported frequent daily spiritual experiences had higher levels of positive mood, lower levels of daily negative mood, and higher levels of each of the social support domains. Individuals who reported that religion was very salient in their coping with pain reported much higher levels of instrumental, emotional, arthritis-related, and general social support. Coping efficacy was significantly related to pain, mood, and social support in that on days that participants rated their ability to control pain and decrease pain using spiritual/religious coping methods as high, they were much less likely to have joint pain and negative mood and much more likely to have positive mood and higher levels of general social support. Taken together, these results suggest that daily spiritual experiences and daily religious/spiritual coping variables are important in understanding the experience of persons who have RA. They also suggest that newly developed daily diary methods may provide a useful methodology for studying religious and spiritual dimensions of living with arthritis.