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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 101-102

Perspectives on poetry in rheumatology

1 Mymensingh Medical College, Mymensingh, Bangladesh
2 Seth GS Medical College, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
3 Department of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology, Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

Date of Submission03-Jan-2020
Date of Acceptance04-Feb-2021
Date of Web Publication08-May-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Latika Gupta
Department of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology, Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/injr.injr_1_21

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How to cite this article:
Saha S, Bhatia A, Gupta L. Perspectives on poetry in rheumatology. Indian J Rheumatol 2022;17:101-2

How to cite this URL:
Saha S, Bhatia A, Gupta L. Perspectives on poetry in rheumatology. Indian J Rheumatol [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Feb 2];17:101-2. Available from:

Dear Editor,

The recently published poetries “The Muscle Rap” and “Gnarled Fingers and Broken Youth” were a joy to read.[1],[2] The authors have done a commendable job expressing rheumatic disease (RD) scenarios through verse. Poetry has been an indispensable part of medicine since antiquity, with the earliest documented publication dating back to 5 BC. Poetic exposition came to hold significant value in medicine and rheumatology in the medieval period and has led to significant positive change in this field since. During that period, patients portrayed their illness, treatment procedures, gratitude to physicians, aging experience, limitations, and humanitarian aspects of medicine through poems.[3] Japanese anthologist, Man'yo-shu, chronicled the first-ever acknowledged case of rheumatoid arthritis in the 8th century. One of its authors narrated progressive destructive polyarthropathy in a poem and his suffering due to this debilitating disease.[4] Historically, medical knowledge has been passed on, both laterally and vertically, through the poetic medium.

These historical examples exemplify the efficacy of poetry in highlighting the challenges, both physical and emotional associated with chronic RDs. RDs often cause long-term debility and prescribed medications hold the potential to add to patients' mental agony despite physical respite. It is not uncommon to see doctors failing to get to the root of this discomfort, paving the way for worsening doctor–patient relationships, resentment and decreased patient compliance. This may in turn negatively affect outcomes.[5] This harrowing journey of illness often leaves the patient dispirited. Poems about hope and the positive aspects of life can help the patients remain optimistic and hopeful. In addition, poetry is a mode of expression, facilitating catharsis as patients voice their sentiments and better process these emotions while imparting these feelings to fellow disease warriors.[6]

Reading poetry can also help doctors to cultivate compassion toward patients and their difficult journey, broadening their intuitive understanding and emotional intelligence. An example of this can be seen in gnarled fingers and broken youth where Dr. Elwadhi eloquently expresses the patient's frustration and the underlying search for the answer to the question, “Why me? Why did I get this suffering?” This philosophical question often stands ignored in the physicians' quest for disease remission while failing to understand patient perspectives and preferences for a better quality of life. Oftentimes, patients cannot verbalize a drug's physical and emotional impact enough, causing poor communication regarding their ability to comply while treatment. Poetry can strengthen the perception in this aspect.[7]

Poems can be a powerful yet underutilized scheme in data presentation of qualitative research, presenting the uncooked story. This research could be congruent with humanities also as self-expression would be there.[8]

As powerful as poetry can be for patient–doctor relationships, the art can also be massively beneficial to the mental health of doctors. In a world wracked with COVID-19, many physicians are at their breaking point, exacerbating an already bad mental health situation among physicians.[9] Poetry can provide a cost-effective, easily accessible way for physicians to vent their frustrations in a way that the general public can also relate to, and understand what physicians go through.

In light of this, it is the writer's opinion that the addition of poetry to medical journals will be a positive development for the entire field.


The authors would like to thank connecting researchers and Dr. Malke Asaad.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Pinto B, Ahmed S. The muscle rap. Indian J Rheumatol DOI: 10.4103/injr.injr_49_20.  Back to cited text no. 1
Elwadhi D. Gnarled fingers and broken youth. Indian J Rheumatol DOI:10.4103/injr.injr_169_20.  Back to cited text no. 2
Abdel-Halim R. Medicine and Health in Medieval Arabic Poetry: An Historical Review. Int J Hist Philos Med 2013;3:1-7.  Back to cited text no. 3
Atsumi T, Horita T, Mimori T, Koike T. Exchange of information in rheumatology between east and west: From Man'yo-shu to the future. Arthritis Rheum 2008;58:S140-2.  Back to cited text no. 4
Neumann M, Scheffer C, Tauschel D, Lutz G, Wirtz M, Edelhäuser F. Physician empathy: Definition, outcome-relevance and its measurement in patient care and medical education. GMS Z Med Ausbild 2012;29:Doc11.  Back to cited text no. 5
Walker J. Art for Arthritis: A New Approach. Poster presented at. San Antonio, Texas: ACR/ARP Annual Meeting; 2019.  Back to cited text no. 6
Charon R, Banks JT, Connelly JE, Hawkins AH, Hunter KM, Jones AH, et al. Literature and medicine: Contributions to clinical practice. Ann Intern Med 1995;122:599-606.  Back to cited text no. 7
Furman R. Poetic forms and structures in qualitative health research. Qual Health Res 2006;16:560-6.  Back to cited text no. 8
Kalmoe MC, Chapman MB, Gold JA, Giedinghagen AM. Physician suicide: A call to action. Mo Med 2019;116:211-6.  Back to cited text no. 9


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