The relationship between positive or negative phrasing and patients' coping with lateral epicondylitis

DongOh Lee, Hyun Sik Gong, Jeong Hwan Kim, Seung Hwan Rhee, Young Ho Lee, Goo Hyun Baek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations


Background: Research suggests that phrases with negative content can affect patients' response to medical procedures and how they cope with medical illnesses. We hypothesized that patients with lateral epicondylitis who describe their condition in positive phrases cope better than those who do not. Methods: We prospectively followed up 91 patients with lateral epicondylitis for 12months. The patients indicated their baseline coping status based on the Pain Catastrophizing Scale (PCS) and were discharged with a wait-and-see policy. During follow-up interviews, the patients described the nature of their condition in their own words and were then categorized into either positive or negative phrasing groups. We compared these two groups regarding current coping status and whether they had sought additional treatment. We also analyzed for the factors associated with these outcomes. Results: There were no significant differences in baseline PCS scores between the two groups. At follow-up, patients in the positive phrasing group (n=62) had significantly lower PCS scores and were less likely to seek additional treatment than those in the negative phrasing group (n=29). Multivariable analyses showed that positive phrasing and low pain levels were independently associated with improvement in PCS scores and that negative phrasing and depression were independently associated with patients' seeking additional treatment. Conclusion: Patients' positive phrasing about their condition are associated with improvement in their coping status and with less use of medical resources in the case of lateral epicondylitis. This study suggests that patients with more positive attitudes toward their illness cope and comply better when a wait-and-see treatment is recommended by their physicians.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567-572
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2014 Jan 1


  • Coping
  • Lateral epicondylitis
  • Positive phrase

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