There are more than 100 separate conditions that are considered arthritis. Numerous forms of arthritis are inflammatory diseases, which means that inflammation causes the joint pain and degeneration. There’s a very common cause of inflammation that you may not be aware of: stress.
At Dr. Louis Keppler & Associates, our providers often counsel patients to reduce stress because it has a clear impact on health. If you have arthritis, managing your stress level is particularly important. In this post, we discuss how stress impacts arthritis, as well as some of the ways you can reduce your levels of stress.
Stress isn’t always bad
Stress is your body’s response to a bad situation. For instance, if you were a caveman and a saber-toothed tiger was chasing you, stress might give you the tools you need to escape. You’ve heard of the fight-or-flight response, and it’s stress that brings about that response.
In modern life, stress tends to work differently. Your body still responds with the same chemicals as a caveman’s, but instead of facing a saber-toothed tiger, you might be dealing with morning traffic or a customer service representative. In other words, your body is prepared to run or fight in a situation where you really need to remain calm.
Stress is a feature of modern life, but one of the most important things you can do for your health is understand how you can lower the amount of stress you feel, especially if you have a form of inflammatory arthritis.
Stress and arthritis
There are several ways stress can make arthritis pain worse. For example, your muscles tense up when you’re under stress -- in case you have to run from a tiger -- and that tension, if it continues over time, can make your arthritis pain worse. So, maybe you’re running late for an appointment, traffic is bad, you struggle with some paperwork when you finally arrive for your appointment, your lunch order is wrong, and you find your dog has torn up a pillow when you got back home.
Each of those relatively small, stressful events causes your muscles to tense up, your breathing to speed up, and your system to release numerous chemicals. Your body’s inflammatory response goes into action, too.
Inflammation is a key part of the joint damage caused by rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriatic arthritis, and several other inflammatory forms of the disease. Stress triggers inflammation and inflammation intensifies both your pain and the damage to your joints.
Techniques to lower stress
It’s much easier to tell someone else to lower their stress levels than it is to actually do it yourself. How do you avoid all the many, small, day-to-day stresses? There are a few things you can do.
Become mindful of the connection between your mind and body
This may sound a bit out there, but numerous studies have shown that meditation, progressive relaxation, guided imagery, and other mindfulness techniques can help you become more resilient and less stressed.
Exercise is beneficial for people with arthritis, and it’s also an excellent method for coping with stress. Regardless of your preferred activity, moving is likely to help you feel better physically and mentally. It can even help with improving mindfulness.
Make time for things you enjoy
One of the simplest ways to lower stress levels is to spend time doing things you like to do. Schedule an hour to read for pleasure. Take the time for hobbies you love. Call your friends for chats more often. Whatever it is that brings you pleasure, make sure it’s on your schedule regularly.
There are many other approaches for lowering stress. If you’re struggling, visit our office in Independence, Ohio, to talk to your provider. We may have suggestions to help you. Schedule an appointment at Dr. Louis Keppler & Associates today.