May is National Arthritis Awareness Month. Arthritis, a condition caused by joint inflammation, affects 50 million Americans and 350 million individuals worldwide. Women are slightly more prone to arthritis than men, but the disease can affect anyone, even children.
What are the Types of Arthritis?
There are three main types of arthritis:
- Osteoarthritis—This is the most common type of arthritis. It forms when the cartilage at the end of a joint deteriorates and bone nerve fibers become exposed.
- Rheumatoid—This type of arthritis is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system targets the joints and causes joint inflammation and pain.
- Psoriatic—This kind of arthritis affects people with psoriasis. The immune system not only attacks the joint but also the ligaments and tendons near the joint.
Chronic Stress Linked to Arthritis
Many factors can cause arthritis to develop, including age, injury and inflammation. A new study published in Arthritis Care & Research suggests stress can play a significant role in arthritis. The researchers found a strong association between chronic stress and the development of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis.
Very few studies have explored the effects of “chronic stress-related physiological burden on musculoskeletal health,” but stress is a major contributor to arthritis, said Sarah N. Schwetlik, BPhysio, MMuscsklSportPhysio, of the University of South Australia. She and her colleagues examined 54 studies, and 41 of the studies showed associations between chronic stress and arthritis.
Scwetlik also discovered an “increased prevalence of both [osteoarthritis] and [rheumatoid arthritis] with increasing degrees of childhood difficulty” (Healio).
COVID-19 and Increased Stress Levels
Stress is not just a risk factor in arthritis development. Being under stress can also make arthritis symptoms worse. Pandemic-related job loss, financial strain and mental health pressure due to COVID-19 have caused millions of Americans to experience more anxiety than ever before. Although more Americans are receiving COVID-19 vaccinations daily, the pandemic’s effects will continue for several years.
Stress response triggers chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol, increasing muscle tension and setting off an inflammatory response in the immune system. Rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and lupus are all fueled by inflammation. As the duration of stress increases, inflammation levels increase as well and become more destructive.
Ways to Manage Stress and Get Joint Pain Relief
One of the best ways to prevent arthritis or manage your arthritic complications is to manage your stress. By implementing stress-management techniques, you can reduce joint pain and improve your quality of life. Here are three ways to manage your stress and get joint pain relief:
- Exercise every day—Regular exercise like walking, swimming, biking and aerobic exercise can help release endorphins, chemicals that boost your mood and decrease feelings of anxiety and depression.
- Yoga and meditation—Deep breathing, movement and mindfulness help slow the pulse and quiet the body to a calm state.
- Find a licensed therapist—Counseling can help you implement cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a technique that allows you to view your worries from a different perspective (Arthritis Foundation).
Call Your Orthopedist
Are you suffering from chronic joint pain? Your orthopedist can help you get your arthritis under control by providing you with a treatment plan that may include de-stressing methods, medication, daily exercise and diet modifications. Call today to schedule an appointment so you can discuss your symptoms and get relief.