April commemorates Stress Awareness Month, and if ever there was a time to stop and think about how stress negatively affects our lives and health it’s now. Events of the past twelve months have arguably amplified stressful situations at home and work. Stress not only affects our mental well-being but can impact our bodies, especially our joints.
How can stress contribute to stiffness and joint pain? When anxiety strikes, be it over financial woes or fears involving work and/or health, the body may react by producing cytokine molecules. While known for aiding in certain bodily infections, cytokines can put one at risk for inflammation of the joints. The longer you experience stress and anxiety, the worse your discomfort.
According to the American Psychological Association, their 2020 stress report was profoundly impacted not only by COVID-19 but additional factors. Seventy-eight percent of adults polled for the survey counted the pandemic as a source of stress. Young adults, in particular, are experiencing more stress overall compared to other age groups (source). This April, it’s important to take a cue from Stress Awareness Month to pay attention to problem areas like your hands, shoulders, knees and other joints in order to relieve your pain.
Three Ways to Combat Stress & Help Your Joints
Stress relief, and consequently joint pain relief, may be as simple as making a few adjustments to your daily routine:
Exercise – Carving even fifteen minutes out of the day for a brisk walk or light weights helps lubricate your joints and reduce the feeling of stiffness. When you are able to take breaks at work, use the time to move and get the blood flowing. Take stairs instead of the elevator if possible, and be sure to hydrate after a workout to replace lost fluids.
Meditate – Meditation and/or time for mindfulness after a long day of work may not only reduce stress, but can have a positive impact on your joints and even reduce symptoms of arthritis. Start with a short meditation in the evening or before bed, in a quiet place with relaxing music or a meditation app to help your frame of mind.
Cut the Caffeine – For some of us, giving up coffee is akin to giving up air, but when you reduce caffeine intake it can help boost relaxation. Try cutting back on caffeinated soft drinks during the day if you need that morning coffee, or try a half-caffeinated drink to see if it helps.
For further assistance reducing joint pain and improving mobility and flexibility, the physicians and therapists at Bon Secours Virginia Orthopaedic and Spine Specialists are here to help. Contact us today to learn more about our minimally invasive procedures and treatments for arthritis, fractures and other conditions.
Additional sources: The Arthritis Foundation