How Stress Impacts Arthritis

Stress is a universal fact of life. Perhaps you’re in the sandwich generation, taking care of children and parents. Maybe your job is high stress and requires long hours. Whatever the source, when your body is under frequent stress, it experiences physical changes. Those changes impact chronic diseases like arthritis. 

When you have an arthritis flare-up, our board-certified pain management, musculoskeletal and regenerative medicine specialists and orthopedic surgeon at Urgently Ortho in Scottsdale, Arizona, are here to help relieve your pain. 

What happens to your body when it’s under stress? 

Your body undergoes significant physical changes when you’re under stress. Your muscles tense. Your body releases chemicals that cause your heartbeat to increase. Your blood pressure is higher, and your breathing rate is more rapid. Your body isn’t meant to sustain these changes over a prolonged period of time. If you don’t take steps to relieve the stress, it has negative impacts on your body that make your arthritis symptoms worse. 

How stress affects your arthritis

In addition to the changes above, stress also triggers your body’s inflammatory response. Your body releases inflammatory chemicals that make your arthritis worse. Inflammation causes painful, swollen joints, attacks cartilage, activates nerves, and can even cause muscle loss

Inflammation may be present in the lining of the joints, compressing nerves and sending too much fluid to joints so that they’re swollen and painful. It can also damage the ligaments surrounding your joints. 

Rheumatoid arthritis and other types of inflammatory arthritis can damage joints, causing bone loss and permanent joint disfiguration.  

Arthritis can cause a loss of mobility in joints, making it difficult to walk, use a computer, or lift your arm. The inflammation from arthritis can be debilitating. 

Getting stress under control

Stress doesn’t have to control you. You can take charge. 

Track stress episodes

Keep a diary that tracks your flare-ups. Was there a stressful event or problem that occurred just before your symptoms became worse? That’s most likely the case. Once you see situations that are fueling your arthritis symptoms, it’s time to develop strategies to combat those stressful trigger situations. 


Exercise is a stress reliever.  When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins that lead to a feeling of well-being. In addition, exercise has proven healthy effects on your body, including your heart, digestive, and immune systems. Getting appropriate exercise can be as beneficial as pain medication in some cases. 

Use relaxation techniques and develop hobbies 

Explore relaxation techniques until you find one or more that you enjoy and that work for you. Tai chi, yoga, music or arts and crafts, or deep breathing exercises are just a few great ways to relieve toxic stress. 


If the stress is from a situation that you may not be able to change immediately, such as a conflict-filled relationship with a boss or employee or worry over debt or unemployment, seek out a counselor. Most localities offer some counseling services at low or no cost if finances are an issue. 

Call or send a message to Urgently Ortho today for an appointment for relief from your arthritis pain. Our specialists offer numerous treatments, from physical therapy to regenerative medicine to calm your painful symptoms. 

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