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How Stress Affects Arthritis

How Stress Affects Arthritis

The Link Between Stress and Joint Pain

Although it is normal to have varying levels of stress in our lives, living with a chronic condition like arthritis can make stress levels increase. Subsequently, increased stress levels can also exacerbate the symptoms associated with arthritis. Here's what you should know to keep stress levels regulated and arthritic symptoms under control.

What is Arthritis?

While arthritis is a common ailment that affects millions of American adults, it isn’t widely well understood. Arthritis isn’t one single joint disease; it is actually an umbrellas term used to refer to many types of joint pain and diseases.

While there are many types of arthritic conditions with unique symptoms, there are some common signs and symptoms that may point to the presence of arthritis in general. Some of these include:

  • Inflammation and swelling
  • Aches and pains
  • Stiffness
  • Limited or decreased range of motion

Depending on the type of arthritis and the location of the affected joint(s), symptoms can range from moderate to severe. Symptoms can also alleviate themselves or become worse over time.

How Stress can Trigger Joint Inflammation

When your body is under stress, your brain increases the production of hormones called glucocorticoids—including cortisol—which are often referred to as the stress hormone. Although this hormone can be essential during life-threatening circumstances, when this response is triggered continuously, prolonged exposure can result in a multitude of health complications—including exacerbating arthritic symptoms.

When your body is under stress, your musculoskeletal system reacts by stiffening your muscles, preparing to deal with the stressful situation at hand. This tenseness can increase arthritic pain. Cortisol also triggers your immune system’s inflammatory response, which can cause further damage to various kinds of arthritis, including:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Lupus arthritis
  • Psoriatic arthritis (PsA)
  • Ankylosing spondylitis (AS)
  • And other inflammatory arthritic conditions

As your body continues to be exposed to cortisol for prolonged periods, inflammation can cause further damage to the affected joints.

Orthopedic Care in Jackson, Wilson, and Teton County

If you are experiencing persistent joint pain, it is important that you talk with an orthopedic specialist to accurately diagnose the cause of your discomfort and provide you with treatment options.

At St. John's Health’s Peak Joint & Spine Center, we have created a special program that brings together a team of experienced and expert surgeons with caring and specially trained nurses, therapists, and technicians. Our goal here is to provide seamless, coordinated care, and get you back to your favorite activities as soon as possible. Talk to one of the providers at the Peak Joint & Spine Center to learn more about treatment options.