Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes one’s immune system to attack the body’s joints and tissues. This can lead to painful joints, stiffness, and swelling. In an unfortunate cycle, rheumatoid arthritis can also lead to increased stress.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects 1.3 million Americans, and studies have shown that stress can affect your RA symptoms. As we head into the third year of the pandemic, many people are more stressed than ever. If you feel like your RA symptoms have been affected by increased stress, you’re not imagining it. 

Does Stress Cause Rheumatoid Arthritis?

While there is no definitive confirmation that stress directly affects RA symptoms, several studies have identified it as a trigger for rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

Here’s why: when your body encounters stress, it triggers a release of chemicals and an inflammatory response in the immune system. This prepares your body to deal with the anticipated challenge.

This is a normal response, but with an autoimmune disease, it can lead to increased inflammation as the body has trouble regulating the inflammatory response properly.

How Rheumatoid Arthritis Can Contribute to Stress

Pain from RA can make it harder to maintain an exercise routine and can affect sleep patterns, leading to fatigue and increased stress.

But there are things that you can do to manage your stress levels and corresponding effects on your RA symptoms.

Stress Management Techniques

  • Gentle Exercise
    Gentle, low-impact movement and stretching have multiple benefits for those dealing with RA symptoms. In addition to helping maintain flexibility and strength, exercise can boost endorphins, acting as a mood enhancer.
  • Therapy
    Therapists provide valuable guidance on stress management techniques for encountering triggering situations. A therapist can help develop an approach to cope with stress, including identifying triggers and creating a strategy to deal with it in healthier ways. They may also suggest that you keep a record of triggers, to identify ways to proactively manage stress.
  • Take Meditation Breaks
    Practicing mindfulness can be great to help focus your mind away from stress. A November 2014 study published in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases found that while meditation and mindfulness didn’t measurably reduce the patients’ physical symptoms, participants reported less stiffness, pain, and tenderness. This suggests that meditation and mindfulness can have an impact on your perception of your symptoms.
  • Create a Plan With Your Doctor
    Work with your doctor to ensure that you have a proper treatment plan for your rheumatoid arthritis. Your doctor can make sure that you are receiving the right treatments to make sure that your symptoms are managed, reducing the additional stress that symptoms can cause.

Contact Advanced Rheumatology of Houston

If you want a doctor who is not only knowledgeable about a variety of rheumatological conditions but also cares about your health and well-being, look no further than Dr. Tamar F. Brionez at Advanced Rheumatology of Houston!

With over 10 years of experience in treating conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, Dr. Brionez and her team can help relieve pain while enhancing the quality of life for patients in The Woodlands, TX. Set up a consultation by calling (281) 766-7886 or clicking here.