Stress and pain

Everyone has stress, but letting it pile up can have physical effects on anyone. If you have a painful condition like osteoarthritis (OA) — a degenerative joint disease characterized by the deterioration of cartilage in your joints — the extra stress can add to the pain you feel in your hands, knees, and other joints.

Here are 10 simple stress relievers to try that may ease some of the stress and pain caused by OA.

Easy walks, swimming, and biking can all help reduce stress in your life. Exercising regularly has a number of benefits for both your mental and physical health. It can help:

  • take your mind off the day’s worries
  • release endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that give us a “happy boost”
  • tackle inflammation
  • increase your range of motion

As with any exercise, ease into it and consult your doctor to make sure you won’t add strain to your body. When you’re ready, try these 5 exercises for OA pain.

Being overweight adds to the physical strain on your body, and can cause further pain in your joints. By changing your diet and incorporating exercise into your daily routine, you can naturally lose weight and reduce your overall stress.

Losing weight shouldn’t involve a crash or dramatic diet. Instead, try adding some of the following:

  • fresh fruits and vegetables
  • whole grains
  • foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, walnuts, and olive oil

Regular massages are a great way to relieve stress. Massage from a trained therapist can have benefit for many conditions. A person with OA might find that an hour massage can loosen their muscles and joints and provide temporary pain relief.

Acupuncture is a type of traditional Chinese medicine in which thin needles are strategically placed into specific points in your skin. It may sound like something far from relaxing, but advocates and acupuncturists alike say that the treatment allows your body’s energy to flow better.

They claim that by helping your internal energy flow, you can reduce stress and possibly even heal specific pain.

When things build up inside and you don’t talk about them, your stress levels rise, leading to other physical problems. Research has shown that writing expressively — like in a journal — can reduce negative thoughts, helping you work through things and even improving your memory.

When you keep a journal, you give yourself an outlet to purge your mind of negativity. After you write, go back and read your entry aloud to yourself to further push the negative thinking out of your mind.

Pour yourself a glass of wine, light some candles, and descend into a warm bath or whirlpool spa. It’s important to relax and lower stress in a private environment — and a nice of glass of wine and a warm bath is the ultimate self-care combo.

Red wine contains an antioxidant called resveratrol that may reduce damage to blood vessels and prevent blood clots. Drinking red wine in moderation has been shown to have other health benefits, too.

The warm water in the tub can also provide a temporary relief for some joint pain. Up your bath time but adding bath salts to your soak, which can increase your relaxation. Epsom salt is recommended for its natural pain-relieving abilities.

People have been practicing yoga for centuries. Performing Hatha or Iyengar yoga helps to stretch your muscles and build strength, which are beneficial to people with OA.

Stress relief is one of the known benefits of yoga. Supporters of yoga also feel that it brings internal harmony to your body while relaxing your mind. If you practice yoga even once a week, it can help reduce stress in your joints and ease pain.

Meditation is an exceptionally beneficial way to help calm your mind. You can start by either sitting on the floor in a cross-legged position, or in a chair with both feet on the floor. Take deep breaths and try to focus on a point in your mind, clearing your thoughts.

The meditative act will help you slow your breathing and focus your attention away from burdensome thoughts. If you get uncomfortable sitting in a position for long periods, you can also meditate lying down, or even just for 5-minute sessions.

Try out one of these meditation apps, which can help guide your practice.

Channeling your stress into a creative outlet can be incredibly helpful for relieving stress. Art therapy has even been getting more widespread acknowledgment for its health benefits, especially those for stress and mental health.

Getting lost in a canvas or snapping pictures on a walk lets you focus your attention in a creative space.

Kids often have the ability to make us laugh with their energy and imaginations. And laughter has proven benefits that can help reduce stress and tension in the body. When you laugh, you release powerful endorphins that deliver warm feelings, further relaxing you and your muscles.

Volunteering can also give you the good feelings that come along with helping others and playing your part. If you’ve been putting off a volunteer opportunity, now you can remind yourself — it’s for your health.