Resilience, Pain Interference, and Upper Limb Loss: Testing the Mediating Effects of Positive Emotion and Activity Restriction on Distress

Michaela V. Walsh, Trey W. Armstrong, Julia Poritz, Timothy R. Elliott, Warren T. Jackson, Tiffany Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Objective To test mediating effects of positive emotion and activity restriction on the associations of resilience and pain interference with distress reported by individuals with traumatic upper limb loss evaluated for prosthetics. Design Cross-sectional correlational study of several demographic and self-report measures of resilience, pain interference, activity restriction, positive emotions, and symptoms of depression and posttraumatic stress. Setting Six regional centers throughout the United States. Participants A total of 263 prospective participants consented to be evaluated for eligibility and need for upper extremity prosthetics; participants (N=202; 57 women [28.2%] and 145 men [71.8%]; mean age, 41.81±14.83y; range, 18.01-72.95y) who sustained traumatic injuries were retained in this study. Most of them were identified as white (70.8%; n=143), followed by black (10.4%; n=21), Hispanic (9.9%; n=20), Asian (3.0%; n=6), other (1.5%; n=3), and missing (4.5%; n=9). Interventions Not applicable. Main Outcome Measures Primary Care Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Screen and depression screen. Results Resilience and pain interference were significantly correlated in predicted directions with positive emotions, activity restriction, and the 2 distress variables. A path model revealed that the associations of resilience and pain interference with both distress variables were completely mediated by positive emotions and activity restriction. There were no significant direct effects of resilience or pain interference on either distress variable. Conclusions Resilience may facilitate adjustment via beneficial and predicted associations with positive emotions and active engagement with the environment. These relations are independent of the significant and inverse associations of pain interference with these same variables. Longitudinal research is needed to understand interactions between positive emotions and activity over time in promoting adjustment after traumatic limb loss. Individuals reporting depression and/or posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms may require interventions that reduce avoidance and promote activities that may increase the likelihood of experiencing positive emotions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)781-787
Number of pages7
JournalArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Amputation
  • Emotions
  • Pain
  • Rehabilitation
  • Resilience, psychological
  • Social participation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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