Stress and Your Bones

Finals are approaching a little too fast for this scared little college girl.  And even though my joints have been doing much better these past couple of weeks, I’ve notice some swelling in my wrist and a couple fingers, and that awful throbbing pain that likes to surprise my system at the most random of times has made an appearance.  Could my stress and arthritis pain be linked?  I’ve done a little research, and according to the web, it can.

I found a great article on on stress and rheumatoid arthritis written by a couple who both have the disease, and together have over 57 years combined experience living with arthritis.  Here’s what they said:

“Patients often report that episodes of stress or trauma preceded the onset of their rheumatoid arthritis. While stress is nearly impossible to measure, some researchers have suggested that stressful life events, such as divorce, job loss, death of a loved one or accidents, are more common in people with rheumatoid arthritis during the six-month period before disease onset compared with the general population.”

Why is this so?  An article on Every Day Health clears this mystery up for us as well:

“Research shows that stress may play a role in the actual inflammation that causes pain. Inflammation in RA is partly caused by molecules called cytokines. While cytokines can be released for a variety of reasons, stress also releases them. If you’re stressed and are releasing more cytokines, you probably will develop more inflammation. This may result in more pain.”

It seems RA patients get the short end of the stick when it comes to stress.  Because ordinary tasks can be difficult for us to accomplish, work can stress us out easier than a normal, healthy individual.  RA patients are prone to depression as well, which can turn a stressful situation  into a nightmare (the Arthritis Foundation discusses RA and depression here).

It’s important for us to learn how to effectively cope with stress and to ultimately prevent it all together in order to maintain our health. has a fantastic stress management plan, and I have a few tips of my own:

  • Know your limits.  I’m terrible about biting off way more than I can chew.  I like staying busy, but its hard for me to find the border between busy and overloaded.  In order to prevent this in the future, I’ve dropped a lot of the classes I had sign up for this summer and fall (13 this summer and 18 this fall have now turned into 7-10 this summer and 15 this fall).  It’s all about time management, something us college students could tell you a lot of.
  • Stay organized.  I learned to do this once I got into high school and started taking tons of honors classes at once.  I keep myself organized so I don’t forget any assignments by keeping a planner.  I write absolutely everything that I may otherwise forget into my planner, and I take it to every class, every student activity meeting, and every event or interview I cover for the newspaper.  The notes section in the back is great when I’m on the go and need to jot down a few reminders.
  • Understand that sometimes you just need a break. If you get frustrated with a project, chances are you’re going to get more and more irritated as you work on it.  Even when working on a strict deadline, its always best to take a break from what you’re working on.  Do not allow yourself to think about the project at all, instead, watch a favorite tv show, eat a snack, or surf the web (heck, you could even play some online games real quick, just don’t get addicted!).  I like to draw or paint when I’m stressed because it requires all of my focus.  When you come back to your assignment you won’t be as stressed out about it and will therefore be thinking clearer, which could be the difference in getting the project done on time and doing a better job on it.
  • Reward yourself for a job well done. I discussed rewarding yourself for doing difficult tasks during a flare in a previous entry.  But we should reward ourselves whenever we reach a personal accomplishment.  Besides, who doesn’t enjoy a little shopping trip from time to time?  🙂

Stay healthy and stress free!

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. David Painter
    May 10, 2010 @ 11:18:52

    Dear Arthritis Blogger,

    The Arthritis Foundation would like to commend you on your informative blog about arthritis and the effects it has on people’s lives. Your valuable insight on what it is like to have arthritis, advice and management techniques are a great resource.

    The Arthritis Foundation is a source of help and hope for people with arthritis. We offer many services including education and support, exercise programs, children’s camps, and other events catered to people with arthritis.

    Based on your blog, we believe our information about arthritis and services we provide would be a benefit to your readers. We can provide you detailed information about our services. Please feel free to contact Dave Painter at (614) 876-8200 or for more information.

    Dave Painter
    Director of Outreach


  2. RA SB
    May 14, 2010 @ 18:53:07

    Hey There Girly,

    I’m not sure if you’ve seen my blog or not yet, but check it out: I think you’ll get a kick out of it.

    In any case, I wanted to tell you I got a kick out of yours! In all honesty, I was loooking at some of the newer blogs I hadn’t checked out yet. I have a handful of faves, but I was looking for any new talent. I have to be honest. Blog after blog after blog I was jut finding most of them to be a snooze-fest. Like who wants to hear someone describe every detail of their day picking out the right lettus for dinner that night? Ok, no one had that EXACT post, but close! Anyway, I was about to give up, and then I found yours. It is really cute, an there is some good stuff here. I’m concerned about your disability center. I earned my MA when I had RA, and my school was awesome about my disability status. They are just knocking you around b/c you are so young. You may have to have your parents call. I know you’re an adult now, but trust me. They think you are just trying to avoid responsibility. But they should understand the seriousness of your diagnosis.

    Anyway, if you get time, stop by my blog and email me if you ever need someone with whom to talk!

    -RA SB


    • Cari Elliott
      Jun 01, 2010 @ 15:29:35

      Hey there! I’m sorry your comments did not post right away, for some reason they were caught in my spam filter. I’m glad you like my blog! I’ll going to check yours out just as soon as I finish some homework. I appreciate your concern about my school’s disability center. I have talked it over with my parents and we have decided that the next snag we hit when dealing with them we will go directly to the dean of students.

      Thank you again for checking out my site! 🙂


  3. RA SB
    May 14, 2010 @ 18:54:47

    I wrote a really big comment, but I’m not sure it went through. Basically I wanted to tell you that I like your blog, and if you haven’t already, check mine out!

    -RA SB


  4. Stacey
    May 19, 2010 @ 17:04:15

    For about three years I had pain in my hands with the nodules getting bigger. I finally went in to see a rheumy in March. All my test were negative except the ccp was very low. My boss is asking me to fill out FMLA papers and I havent because I am afraid it will be a crutch. It hurts to mow the lawn but I still do (I dont want to ask someone to come over and do it.) Right now my knuckles are about twice the size as normal. My grandma has it to the point she can not use several of her fingers, and I have never heard her utter a word of complaint. How can I allow myself to whine and cry when my grandmother doesnt, and how do you ask for help without feeling like a cripple?


    • Cari Elliott
      Jun 01, 2010 @ 15:44:26


      I’m so sorry your RA is giving you such a difficult time. Learning how to accept that you will need help at times was a hard lesson for me as well. However, all these activities that are causing you pain can ultimately cause progression in the disease. You’re risking more pain and more activities that you could have difficulty performing. Asking for help is the best thing you can do for yourself during a flare. If you’re worried about someone not understanding, run off some info from the net about RA, or write a letter about your difficulties and give it to them (my “Don’t Have RA? Read Here” section is my own personal letter). If they still don’t understand, they never will, but that is not your fault nor your problem.

      As far as complaining, *most* everyone complains about something once in a while. I’m sure your grandmother understands. It is my opinion that she is used to not having anyone who understands what she is going through, and she has probably taught herself to not complain to people as a result. I would not feel bad about complaining, however, do not get caught up in it. It is far too easy to become depressed with RA.

      The strongest of people know when to swallow their pride and ask for help when they need it, and be happy that you are taking care of yourself and managing your disease the best way you possibly can by doing so. You’re not weak, you’re responsible. In addition, complaining once in a while can be therapeutic, holding all of your emotions in could have a negative impact on your health. Strive to stay as healthy as you can, and don’t worry about what others may see in the process.

      If you ever need to vent or if you have more questions I’ll do my absolute best to help. Thank you for reading!



  5. Stacey
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 17:31:23

    I am doing much better now. My dr prescribed me prednisone again along with the hydroxycloroquin, pain went from 10 to 6. Also my husband came home from school for a weekend visit (only a couple more weeks and he will be home for good) and I realized he was listening to me more than I thought. Such a small thing but a big thing at the time. We were in the store and he said he heard that magnetic jewelry was supposed to help, and lets go look for some. Made me want to tear up!!!

    Then I get back to work and find out my supervisor was talking about my FMLA papers my Dr filled out and saying “Why would she need time off for plain old arthritis” I would love to print off some information and just put in on her desk, but like my job and want to keep it. 🙂


    • Cari Elliott
      Jun 21, 2010 @ 20:05:10

      Some people will never understand what we go through, but that’s what makes moments like you had with your husband so special and wonderful. 🙂 I glad to hear that you are doing better!


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