Have you hugged your pet today? According to the National Center for Health Research, animal companions are likely to reduce stress and anxiety. Even a few minutes spent with your dog, cat or other pet at home can help lower blood pressure and lighten your mood.
For people experiencing chronic joint pain, pet ownership may have benefits that improve mental health and in turn reduce stiffness.
- Responsibilities to your pet: Caring for a dog, cat or other pet means vigilance and regular activity on your part. You will handle regular feedings and cleanup, necessary work that requires use of your hands.
- Shared activities: Pet owners may be more likely to exercise outdoors, owing to the necessity to walk dogs and help them stay fit. Regular exercise such as walking can help improve mobility and relieve stiffness in the joints. Simple play like tossing a ball to your dog also works on hand and wrist joints.
- Positive attitudes: Bonding with your pet, as it enhances your mood, may release serotonin. Studies have shown serotonin deficiency can contribute to arthritic flare-ups and discomfort. The quality time you spend with your dog or cat can benefit you physically as well as emotionally.
As you exercise or play with your pet, be mindful of your environment and take care that you do not exacerbate your chronic pain. When taking your dog for a walk, use a leash that won’t put strain on your shoulders and hand joints. Walk or jog on soft surfaces, grassy paths and trails, and wear shoes that support your feet.