Pain and fatigue are highly prevalent in multiple sclerosis (MS) and are associated with adverse physical, social, and psychological outcomes. There is a critical need to identify modifiable factors that can reduce the impact of these symptoms on daily life.
This study examined the moderating role of dispositional coping in the relationships between daily fluctuations (i.e., deviations from a person’s usual level) in pain and fatigue and same-day functional/affective outcomes.
Adults with MS (N = 102) completed a self-report measure of dispositional coping (Brief COPE), followed by 7 days of ecological momentary assessment of pain and fatigue and end-of-day diaries assessing same-day pain interference, fatigue impact, social participation, upper extremity and lower extremity functioning, depressive symptoms, and positive affect and well-being (PAWB). Multilevel models tested interactions between daily symptom fluctuations and dispositional coping (avoidant/approach) in predicting same-day outcomes.
Higher approach coping mitigated the same-day association between pain and pain interference, whereas higher avoidant coping augmented this association. Daily PAWB benefits were seen for those who reported high approach coping and low avoidant coping; effects were only observed on days of low pain (for approach coping) and low fatigue (for avoidant coping). Avoidant coping was associated with worse fatigue impact, social participation, lower extremity functioning, and depressive symptoms.
When faced with pain and fatigue, avoidant coping is associated with increased, and approach coping with decreased, functional/affective difficulties in the daily lives of individuals with MS. Altering coping strategy use may reduce the impact of pain and fatigue.