Arthritis beliefs and self-care in an urban American Indian population

Authors

  • B. Josea Kramer,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Geriatric Research Education Clinical Center, Sepulveda, California, and University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine
    • Geriatric Research Education Clinical Center (11E), VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Sepulveda Ambulatory Care Center and Nursing Home, 16111 Plummer Street, Sepulveda, CA 91343
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  • Judith O. Harker,

    1. Department of Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Sepulveda, California
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  • Andrew L. Wong

    1. Olive View-University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center, Sylmar, California, University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, and Department of Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Sepulveda, California
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Abstract

Objective

To describe beliefs and self-care strategies of American Indians with chronic arthritis joint pain.

Method

In-depth interviews were conducted with a convenience sample of urban-dwelling American Indians (n = 56) concerning self-care and beliefs about arthritis; objective measures of arthritis disease activity were obtained through standardized interview protocols.

Results

Joint pain was not generally assumed to be arthritis nor directly related to aging. Belief that chronic pain affecting multiple joints was a serious and unexpected condition oriented American Indians' decisions to seek medical attention. However, verbal communications about pain may be subtle or under emphasized. Few coping strategies were used to control either chronic or episodic pain.

Conclusions

Chronic arthritis pain may not be optimally managed in this population. Cultural assessment should recognize that American Indian patients may understate serious symptoms. Community educational interventions should target this population to enhance self-care, pain management, and communication of arthritis symptoms to physicians.

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