Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that over 1.3 million Americans currently live with. If you are one of them, gaining a deeper understanding of the autoimmune disease is essential. The role that stress can play in affecting symptoms should be at the top of your agenda.
Knowledge is power and will support your bid to build a better lifestyle when living with rheumatoid arthritis. Here’s what you need to know about stress and what it can do to your physical and mental wellbeing when living with a chronic health complaint.
Stress Increases Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
Stress and the feelings of being overwhelmed affect us all. And while you may try to kid yourself into thinking you’re not stressed, your body will show physical symptoms linked to the biological changes that occur.
The list includes headaches, low energy, and reduced immune systems. Tellingly, stress triggers the release of chemicals that cause your heart rate to increase and muscles to tense up. This can cause fatigue, which leads to muscle pains. Worse still, the reduced inflammation defense mechanisms will allow joint damage to worsen.
Stress hormones and increased inflammation of muscles and joints affect rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus, psoriatic arthritis (PsA), and ankylosing spondylitis (AS). It is, therefore, one of the most common triggers – as well as one of the most powerful when it strikes.
The Vicious Cycle
The impact that stress can have in relation to causing rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups is very clear. Most worryingly, though, it is the start of a vicious cycle between RA and stress. Unfortunately, it can be very hard to break free.
Rheumatoid arthritis will leave you facing aches, pains, and discomfort, which can lead to insomnia while simultaneously restricting what you can achieve in the daytime. The repercussions of those physical issues may include forced work absences, missing family outings, and generally being unable to live the life you want.
When coupled with the financial costs of treatments and medications, it creates a very emotionally distressing situation. Additionally, as you feel more stressed, the symptoms will get worse and vice versa. The relationship between RA and stress simply cannot be ignored.
How To Regain Control Of Stress & RA
Stress is an everyday occurrence that cannot be avoided completely. The hectic nature of juggling your health, family, career, and lifestyle will probably result in some stressful moments on a daily basis. The best you can do is reduce the frequency.
A healthier lifestyle should be the top item on the agenda. A little light daily exercise combined with good eating habits, hydration, and regular breaks throughout the day will serve you well. Speaking to a therapist about cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may help you accept RA and reduce its control over your life.
Perhaps the most significant step, though, is to follow the treatments and medications prescribed by medical experts. This can reduce the frequency and strength of flare-ups while additionally supporting better symptom management.
For further support on understanding your symptoms and how to reduce their impact on your life, call Rheumatology Care of North Houston at 832.532.9779 to arrange a consultation.