Growing up I spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s house, especially after I was diagnosed with JRA and had to spend a year away from school. My grandmother kept boxes of old Reader’s Digest magazines tucked away in her store room. I loved reading them, even though much of the content was too mature for my 7 years of life experience at that time. My favourite part was the “Laughter, the best medicine” section where readers would submit funny stories and jokes. I loved the way just a few simple sentences with a punch line could surprise me and make me laugh and smile. As an adult I still love comedy, from watching stand-up comedy, to movies to tv shows to just having my friends tell me about a funny incident they experienced that day. Who doesn’t love to laugh till they cry and are rolling around on the ground? 😀
Laughter has often been explored in relation to its potential to relieve pain. It has been suggested that laughing releases endorphins which can temporarily help ease pains. In this TIME magazine article by Maia Szalavitz, researchers found that “Viewing or participating in comedy led to higher pain tolerance…and there was a dose-related response to laughter: people who laughed more felt less pain later.”
So what does this mean for persons with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis who live with chronic pain? Should we try to spend our entire day laughing? That would be funny ;).
I found a very interesting article on laughter and RA by RAWarrior, which references this rheumatology study by the Department of Joint Disease and Rheumatism, Nippon Medical School, Tokyo, Japan. It was found that “mirthful laughter affects the levels of serum pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines differentially, depending on the RA disease activity” (Matsuzaki et al 2006). I don’t want to get too technical here, but it is interesting how laughter had varying effects on cytokine levels depending on whether individuals had “easy-to-control” RA or “difficult-to-control” RA. I would really love to see more studies like this repeated so we can examine whether we get the same results each time.
Stepping away from the scientific aspect of laughter, I think we can all agree that laughing makes us feel happier as it lightens our moods. It definitely distracts me temporarily from my pains (as well as the every-day stress which life brings). Whether laughter actually reduces disease activity or not, I cannot say, but I do know that I prefer to be laughing and in pain, rather than crying and in pain. When those night-time flares hit, get those Youtube videos ready on your laptop so you can brighten your mood.
I’ll leave you with 2 videos which I hope make you smile :). One is an advertisement by Evian and the other is a clip of dancing penguins from Happy Feet set to Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. Enjoy!
– Ms. Rainbow
T. Matsuzaki et al., “Mirthful laughter differentially affects serum pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine levels depending on the level of disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.” Rheumatology 45 (2006):182-6.