Whenever we think about stress, we are quick to wonder how it affects our mental health – after all, that’s what stress is all about. But what we don’t often think about is how stress can affect our bodies. More specifically, our joints. We might not realize it, but a big dose of stress can become a physical problem. One that, ironically, will add up to our stress levels. Because of that, it’s not a bad idea to be on the lookout for the physical consequences of stress and how to deal with them. Your joints will eventually thank you for it. Keep reading if you are interested in learning more about stress and joint pain.
How is Stress Affecting Your Joints?
1. Stress is tensing you up!
Stress can and will tense up your mind. When you constantly think about the things that are stressing you out, in the end, you become even more stressed. The problem with that vicious cycle is that the stress is also tensing up your entire body.
Eventually, your muscles will tense up and they will stay that way until you either calm down or address the problems that are stressing you out in the first place. With enough stress triggers, your body can enter into fight-or-flight mode – and that’s putting tremendous strain on your muscles, which then leads to fatigue, joint strain and pain, and, eventually can cause injuries.
2. Stress can delay the recovery of an injury
As we mentioned above, a stressful situation can fire up your fight-or-flight mode. When that happens, your system floods your body with cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone designed to place all your energy into either fight or flight, whichever you may choose. Unfortunately, cortisol gets you ready for battle at the expense of important functions, like healing and growing. High doses of cortisol will shut down your body’s healing abilities, which makes if longer for you to recover from injuries. Cortisol is so strong, that it can weaken your bones and can block your body from absorbing calcium, making you weaker and more susceptible to injuries as well.
3. Stress can increase pain level
In a similar fashion to cortisol and calcium, stress can affect your magnesium levels. The more stressed out you are, the more magnesium-depleted your body becomes. Normal magnesium levels will prevent you from having mood swings, fatigue, and muscle cramps. Stress will, quite literally, rob you from much-needed magnesium. If that happens, you will become more susceptible to pain, both physically and mentally, no matter what you do. This includes joint pain.
4. Stress will make you weaker and more susceptible to injuries
Because of high cortisol levels and low magnesium levels, you may become prone to injuries, and, older, pre-existing injuries can turn into bigger problems. If your joints bothered you before, they might start to ache like they never did – and only because your stress levels are getting higher. This applies to knee pain, hip pain and pain in any other joints.
What Can You Do About It?
1. Find out what’s bothering you
The very first thing you need to do is to find out what is stressing you out – and if it’s coming from one or multiple sources. Think about your stress as water coming from a faucet. Instead of trying to stop the water from coming out with your hands (which you probably can’t do, because there’s always more water coming out), think about turning off the faucet. Meaning, make a list of everything that is stressing you out, prioritize the list (i.e.: quick wins, versus more difficult situations to deal with) then start tackling them one by one.
2. Take it easy
Sometimes, you just can’t fix a stressful situation because it’s out of your control. The best thing you can do in this circumstance is not dealing with the problem itself – instead, change your attitude towards the problem. Do not minimize a problem but accept that you can’t do anything about it. If the mere thought about the problem stresses you out, distance yourself from it. Some people are simply wired to stress out – they will suffer from stress even if a problem wouldn’t normally stress anyone out. If that’s the case, it’s best to deal with your mindset regarding all situations you might face.
3. Improve and supplement your diet
As you know, stress can flood your system with troublesome hormones and prevent your body from absorbing useful ones. You need to prevent stressful situations – but, if you can’t, you need to prepare yourself to face them. The best way to do so is by eating right, staying away from unhealthy food, and, perhaps, choosing a vitamin supplement, just in case. Sometimes, we feel stressed out because of poor nutrition – and eating right might put an end to your stress-filled days or at least help out a little bit.
4. Exercise the pain away
One great way to relieve stress is to simply punch it away. Or squat it away. Whichever one you prefer. High-intensity sports and workouts such as combat sports or weightlifting might help you with your stress and, at the same time, keep you in great shape! It’s a win-win!
If you are thinking about starting to exercise because of a stressful environment, remember to leave your problems at the door – don’t bring them with you at the gym. That way, it’ll be your peaceful sanctuary, a little bit of time for yourself where stress can’t get to you.
5. Relax your mind and body with outside help
If you are already exercising, consider other relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation or something as simple as getting a massage. (There are few things in life that can relieve stress as much as a massage!). Once your body is taken care of, you can also try to relax your mind with mindfulness exercises. If you don’t know where to start, don’t worry! There are more than plenty of blogs, videos, and apps waiting for you! Mix both massages and mindfulness – that way, stress won’t have a chance against you!
We hope that now, you understand the impact of what stress can do to your body, and your joints, and that you’ll take the necessary steps in making changing your stressful situation. We know, it’s not as easy as it sounds, but it’s a must. If you have any suggestions or tips on how to deal with stress and/or joint pain, please share them by using the comment box below. And before you go, please check out our Health & Fitness Tips section for other useful information before you go. Take care.
Additional resources relating to stress & joint pain:
62 Stress Management Techniques, Strategies & Activities
10 Unlikely Things That Cause Joint Pain
How Stress Affects Arthritis
Disclaimer – We are not doctors or medical professionals here at SimplyJnJ . The information we posted in this blog article about stress and joint pain is for informational purposes only. You should always consult a health care professional if you are in pain or before starting any form of treatment.