Absolutely. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptoms are known to worsen during times of stress, and we have more than anecdotal evidence to prove it. An analysis of 16 medical studies confirms that stress can exacerbate RA symptoms significantly. And that link is even more profound in individuals who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), like many of our aging veterans in New York City.
Unfortunately, medical professionals don’t fully understand why that link exists. But we do know about stress management and pain management techniques that will help you cope with aggravated RA symptoms due to stress. And today, the professional caregivers at David York Agency are here to help.
We’ll begin with a look at typical RA symptoms. Then we’ll consider some ways to combat those issues and combat the stress, too.
Standard RA Symptoms
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines rheumatoid arthritis as an autoimmune and inflammatory disease. It causes your immune system to attack healthy cells in your body and causes inflammation (painful swelling) in the affected areas.
- RA usually affects a patient’s joints and often attacks many joints at once.
- Hands, wrists, and knees are typically affected.
- Joints become achy and swollen.
- As time goes by, the joint lining becomes inflamed, and the joint tissue can be damaged.
- Ongoing tissue damage from RA can lead to chronic pain, instability (a lack of balance while walking), and deformity.
You’ll recognize RA symptoms because they’re usually equal on both sides of the body. Both wrists or knees will ache, rather than just one. Ongoing aches and tenderness associated with RA can also cause fatigue, sleeplessness, and weight loss. Those issues can be particularly dreadful for our seniors, who may already be coping with fatigue, nutrition challenges, or weight loss.
And while NSAIDs — anti-inflammatory medications like Tylenol or aspirin — can help ease the pain, for now, they are a short-term solution for an ongoing problem.
Why Does Stress Affect RA Symptoms?
Doctors are not entirely sure. We know mental and emotional stress can manifest in all sorts of physical symptoms, regardless of age. If you’ve ever had a stomach ache, headache, or a night of poor sleep during times of stress, you already understand.
So it’s not surprising that stress can cause a flare-up of any existing condition. Those physical manifestations might be a temporary nuisance to a young individual. But missing a few meals and a few nights of rest can take a heavier toll on our seniors.
Now, let’s think about ways we can tackle the problem.
Take a Two-Pronged Approach: Treat the Stress and Treat the RA
Treating Stress in NY Seniors: Physical Activity for the Win
To help your older family member cope with stress — and therefore reduce painful RA symptoms — you can:
- Take a walk. The CDC recommends mobile seniors should aim for 150 minutes of walking every week. That can be split up into about 20 minutes every day or a few longer walks.
- Have a good stretch. Physical activity seems to ease RA symptoms, and it will distract your family member from joint pain.
- Reduce stressors. Don’t let your loved one spend a whole day watching the news. News headlines are written to involve us emotionally. Thirty or 60 minutes of news every day is enough.
Remember, any physical activity will help a body create and release endorphins — painkilling hormones in our body. Once you reduce stress levels and add some physical activity, you’ll notice painful RA symptoms dwindle.
David York Agency Home Healthcare Helps Seniors in New York
At David York Agency, we understand the many challenges and risks faced by the aging and elderly and are dedicated to providing care to support them through all of those ups and downs. At David York Home Healthcare Agency, extraordinary service is what sets us apart from other companies in New York that provide in-home health care services.
DYA provides direction as to how to manage the total care of your senior loved one. Whatever your care needs, we are there for you, always striving to exceed your expectations. For more information about David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate caregivers, contact us at (718) 376-7755. A free phone consultation can help you determine what services would meet your needs. We aim to provide you and your loved one with the assistance they need. If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn.