Pain and physical activity levels among Rheumatoid Arthritis patients between the ages of 18 to 50 years in South Africa
Background: Little epidemiological research on rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has been done in Africa, suggesting that it is an uncommon illness. In rural South Africa, RA has an overall prevalence of 0.07% and a prevalence of 2.5% in urban areas; therefore, it is not as uncommon as perceived by the lack of research. Patient-centred programmes to improve physical function have been lacking and, as a result, the prior assumption was that physical activity should be avoided.
Objectives: To determine pain and physical activity levels among RA patients between the ages of 18 to 50 years in South Africa.
Methods: A combination of two questionnaires were used, namely, the Global Physical Activity Questionnaire (2002) and the Pain Outcomes Questionnaire (2003). The collated questionnaires were distributed by rheumatologists and on social media platforms to RA patients between the ages of 18 to 50 years old living in South Africa. This study had a sample size of 105 participants, with participation occurring through the online Google forms platform.
Results: One hundred and five participants with RA were recruited with an average age of 38±9 years. Most of the participants were females (93.3%). Seventy-two percent of the sample was classified as physically active, where work, leisure and travel activities were considered. No significant correlation between pain and physical activity was evident (r=0.10; p=0.311). Results showed significant correlations between pain and personal grooming (r=0.30; p=0.002), pain and ambulation (r=0.60; p=0.000), and pain and stair climbing (r=0.60; p=0.000).
Conclusion: Physical activity has proven to have multiple benefits for those suffering with RA. In this South African sample of RA patients, the majority were classified as physically active, and pain did not affect the activity levels of the involved participants. This study opens further research questions regarding RA prevalence in South Africa, and the type and intensity of physical activity that would be beneficial for RA.
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