By Steven Reinberg
FRIDAY, Feb. 8, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Optimism may be key to coping with chronic pain, claims a new study of soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. And you don’t need to be a vet to benefit from a positive attitude, the research suggests.
“What was striking was that optimism was associated with less pain even when taking into consideration what the soldiers experienced during deployment, such as combat stress and trauma, as well as injury,” said lead researcher Afton Hassett. She is an associate research scientist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
And an upbeat attitude can have the same power for civilians, the study authors said.
“Although the experience of the U.S. Army soldier is incredibly different than that of a civilian, there is a large body of literature that suggests that optimism is protective for the experience of pain,” Hassett said.
Hassett’s team also found that even moderate levels of optimism were protective for the development of pain after deployment, which suggests that you don’t need to be a hopeless optimist to still benefit.
Using data from the U.S. Army, the researchers found that among nearly 21,000 soldiers, 37 percent reported pain in at least one new area of the body after deployment: 25 percent reported new back pain; 23 percent new joint pain; and 12 percent new frequent headaches.
The findings showed that every increase in a score that measured optimism was linked with 11 percent lower odds of reporting any new pain after deployment.
Moreover, a larger increase for the risk of new pain was seen among those with low optimism when compared with those with moderate optimism.
Dr. Jianguo Cheng, president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, said that optimism can be an effective tool in helping to cope with chronic pain. This study shows clearly what is already known about how one’s mental attitude can affect one’s physical health, he added.
“Pain management has to be multifactorial. A single approach is usually not effective,” he explained.
The report was published online Feb. 8 in JAMA Network Open.
Copyright © 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
SOURCES: Afton Hassett, Psy.D., associate research scientist, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Jianguo Cheng, M.D. Ph.D., president, American Academy of Pain Medicine, professor, anesthesiology, Cleveland Clinic, Ohio; Feb. 8, 2019, JAMA Network Open, online