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July 17, 1981

β-Endorphin levels lower in arthritis patients

JAMA. 1981;246(3):203. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03320030005004

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One possible explanation of chronic pain accompanying various arthritic conditions is that the patient's body has lost part of the normal ability to produce endorphins.

Charles W. Denko, MD, PhD, bases this hypothesis on a comparison of serum β-endorphin levels in normal persons and in patients with rheumatic disorders ranging from juvenile and adult rheumatoid arthritis to gout, pseudogout, and psoriatic arthritis. Virtually all of the patients had lower levels of endorphin, as determined by radioimmunoassay.

Denko, clinical professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, described his findings in an interview and in a poster session at the recent Boston meeting of the American Rheumatism Association.

"Pain may be a type of stress that causes the body to produce endorphins," he said. "People with arthritis are notoriously poor biochemical factories... So [they may have] a generalized metabolic deficiency that is a result of the disease