Rheumatoid arthritis laughter
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
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Researchers have found that a good laugh has a positive effect on the immune response of patients with severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Researchers examined patients with rheumatoid arthritis and a group of control patients. They had them listen to a traditional Japanese story called Rakugo that is known to be very funny. The researchers measured pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines before and after the story was played. (Cytokines are blood markers of disease.)
After laughing, the RA group's levels of cytokines decreased significantly, but not those of the healthy subjects. Their study appears in the February 2006 issue of Rheumatology.
The findings point to the importance of addressing not only the physical but also the psychological stresses of severe RA. These results suggest that not only the immunological process but also psychological condition regulates the production of several cytokines in RA.
The effect of stress on cytokine production is generally not well understood. But...an interaction between stress and the immune system plays a pivotal role in the progression of autoimmune diseases such as RA.
This effect is not new. The late Norman Cousins, who suffered from ankylosing spondylitis, another autoimmune inflammatory form of arthritis, experienced relief of symptoms by laughing at old cartoons of the Thee Stooges.
In recent years, laugh yoga has also been touted as an adjunctive therapy for medical conditions such as arthritis.
Psychological support should be considered indispensable for the treatment of RA.
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