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The Mental Side of Arthritis

The Mental Side of Arthritis

No one is ever prepared for the full impact of arthritis, but at least they know to expect progressive joint pain and stiffness. What they don’t expect — what most people don’t know — is the toll arthritis takes on their brain, beyond their mental health.

Arthritis directly impacts the brain’s structure and function. The good news is that you can take steps to slow or prevent these brain changes, and one of the best ways is to get proactive about pain relief.

Our skilled team at Florida Pain Medicine offers comprehensive arthritis management, using a wide range of advanced interventional and regenerative medicine therapies to protect your brain by effectively easing your arthritis pain.

Here, we explore three ways arthritis affects your cognitive and emotional health.

Chronic pain affects your brain

Chronic pain from any health problem, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, has a dramatic effect on your brain, affecting its structure and function.

Ongoing pain diminishes the amount of gray matter (the brain tissues densely packed with nerve cell bodies) and affects nerve communication. The nerves also become hypersensitive and start translating all stimuli (like touch, temperature, pressure) as painful, even when it isn’t.

The brain areas affected have a role in many functions. As a result, you may notice changes like being unable to regulate your emotions (having angry outbursts), trouble making decisions, and memory loss. 

The longer you live with chronic pain, the more these ongoing brain changes perpetuate and worsen the pain and contribute to other health problems. That’s why it’s essential to seek the pain relief options we offer.

Brain fog disrupts productivity

Brain fog refers to having trouble pulling your thoughts together. You may struggle to think clearly or have a hard time concentrating. You may also feel like your memory is slipping or that learning is harder.

Arthritis-related brain fog can arise from the changes in your brain caused by pain. You’re also more likely to struggle with brain fog if you have an inflammatory arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis.

The inflammation that causes rheumatoid arthritis finds its way from your joints to other body areas, including your brain. Inflammatory substances in your brain diminish gray matter and affect nerve pathways.

Mental health disorders develop

People with arthritis are up to 10 times more likely to have depression and anxiety compared to adults who don’t have the disease. The higher risk for mental health disorders is related to living with chronic pain and ongoing joint inflammation.

Depression and pain share a two-way relationship. Chronic pain causes depression, while depression magnifies pain, creating a downward spiral of increasing pain. Body-wide inflammation is also closely associated with depression.

When your pain causes anxiety, or the physical limitations of arthritic joints make you feel anxious about how to navigate your daily activities, your body releases cortisol.

Cortisol, the stress hormone, has a negative effect on many aspects of your health, including your brain. High cortisol levels physically change your brain, affecting thinking, memory, and concentration, and potentially increasing your risk for dementia.

Don’t wait to get advanced treatment for arthritis

If you have arthritis, you may take medications, participate in physical therapy, and do your best to keep your joints moving. When these conservative measures no longer give you enough pain relief, don’t just give up and live with the pain.

Living with pain only fosters more pain and puts you at risk for brain changes. That’s why you owe it to yourself to learn about the therapies we provide.

As pain specialists, we offer a vast array of treatments that aren’t available from most doctors. Some diminish arthritis pain by targeting the nerves relaying pain messages; others, like platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections, promote healing inside the joint.

Let us help you improve your quality of life. Call the nearest Florida Pain Medicine office, or request an appointment online today.

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