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How Joint Health Affects Mental Health and How to Improve Both

How Joint Health Affects Mental Health and How to Improve Both
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Joint health and mental health are connected. Approximately 1 in 5 adults with arthritis also has symptoms of anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, many people think of anxiety as normal and fail to seek help for their mental health.

Because anxiety and depression can also worsen your joint pain, it can become a vicious circle. By understanding the connection between these conditions, you can improve both joint health and mental health and enjoy a better quality of life.

The Link Between Joint Health and Mental Health

Living with joint problems that cause chronic pain can affect your mental health in many ways. Having daily pain, especially more severe pain, can cause anxiety as well as physical and emotional stress. This in turn can disrupt certain chemicals in the brain and nervous system that affect your mood and ability to think clearly, leading to depression in some people.

On the flip side, having anxiety or depression can reduce your threshold for pain and make pain more difficult to cope with. Some studies have shown that depression might promote inflammation in the body, making arthritis pain worse. What’s more, the fatigue that can come with mental illnesses can slow you down even further.

How to Improve Your Joint Health and Overall Well-Being

If you have chronic pain from arthritis or joint injuries, it’s important not to brush aside any mental health symptoms you experience.

Symptoms of anxiety and depression include:

  • Irritability
  • Racing thoughts
  • Trouble focusing
  • Sadness
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed

Talk to your physician if you are experiencing any of these symptoms along with pain. Treatments are available that can help.

For some people, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of talk therapy, helps to improve both mental health and pain at the same time. CBT is based on the theory that sensations in the body are related to thoughts and feelings. Therapists use various techniques to help people learn to better cope and manage their pain.

In addition, relaxation training can help people learn to better handle stress, which can also reduce pain. Mindfulness and yoga are examples of techniques used in this type of training.

Managing Arthritis Pain

While CBT and relaxation are helpful strategies, focusing on keeping joints healthy and managing arthritis symptoms can also help with both pain and mental health. Follow your physician’s guidance for taking medications and making healthy lifestyle changes.

One option is to stay active. Exercising regularly can not only reduce pain but also boost your mood and keep you healthier overall. Choose low-impact activities like walking or swimming to protect your joints and keep pain from worsening.

Another positive change is to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Carrying excess weight can put stress on your joints, especially hips and knees. Talk to your doctor about following a healthy weight loss program if you are overweight.

Have questions about your joint health? Find a provider at Union Health who can help.

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