Back to Back Issues Page
Insider Arthritis Tips, December 2008
December 15, 2008

"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something." -- Plato, Philosopher

Table of contents


Stress and Arthritis... a Bad Mix...

Announcement- Special Complimentary Teleseminar

Tip of the month


I grew up in a small town in upstate New York called Norwich. At the time (in the early and middle 50’s), it was a farming community with a couple of big companies, one of which was Eaton Laboratories where my dad worked as a chemist. Now… because of businesses closing, Norwich, from what I hear, is a depressed area. It’s a shame because, I have a lot of memories about growing up there.

It was a simple place with a lot of nice people. There was a quarry outside of town and we would go on field trips to there as well as to other nearby areas and dig up arrowheads. We also went to a maple syrup farm. If you’ve never had maple syrup on snow, it’s quite a treat. I’m not sure I’d do that now with all the air pollution but then it was great.

Another thing, political correctness was not on the radar screen. My family, because we were the only Asians, were considered an oddity. There were few African American families living there also. There were some memories regarding this issue I’d prefer to forget… but that’s life.

This was also the period of the cold war. In school, I remember we had “atom bomb” drills where a siren would sound and we all dutifully crawled under our desks and held our arms over our heads… and then when the drill was over, we would get up and have our morning milk.

Winters were long and the snow was really deep. One year, on the first day of spring we had four feet of snow fall. Nowadays, those types of snowfalls are pretty unusual. Is it global warming? Who knows? When I tell my kids I walked to school through three feet of snow uphill both ways, they generally ignore me… I don’t know why.

Stress and Arthritis... a Bad Mix...

When man walked the earth at the same time as the saber-toothed tiger, stress played an important role in survival. The neuroendocrine system with its many hormones designed to activate the flight or fight response prepared human beings to respond to an appropriate life challenge.

Unfortunately, while stress can help protect us, in today’s society, it more often is a trigger for serious health problems, including arthritis.

For example, researchers at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center of the Pennsylvania State University studied how a stressor such as sleep loss affected healthy college students. After one week with 25 per cent less sleep, the students' blood tests showed decreases in cortisol and increases in cytokines, chemicals that induce inflammation -- changes also found in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

While many other factors such as genetics contribute to a person's chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis, stress is considered a possible trigger [along with a few others]. The reason is that the stress response and the immune response share a few of the same pathways.

Stress also can magnify the aches and pains associated with other forms of arthritis such as fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. Typically, a person under stress will develop tightness in the neck and shoulder region. It is not uncommon for people with osteoarthritis of the neck to have a flare related to stress... and it is certainly evident that stress is a major cause of a fibro flare.

Unfortunately, since arthritis patients often have other co-morbid conditions, it is not just the arthritis that can be a victim of stress. Take a look at the other adverse health effects:

Researchers now know that excess cortisol causes fat to deposit around the abdomen. Excess abdominal fat and obesity are risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. Also, this type of fat is responsible for producing pro-inflammatory cytokines leading to an increase in inflammation.

Obesity is a leading cause of diabetes, but the chemical imbalances caused by stress, regardless of obesity, can also trigger type 2 diabetes development. In addition, stress in many instances, leads to an increase in caloric intake contributing to even more obesity.

Acute stress increases blood pressure and narrows blood vessels. Stress also increases levels of cholesterol, triglycerides and homocysteine, all of which are implicated in the development of coronary artery disease.

In a 2003 study, 72 percent of people with arthritis reported sleep problems. This most often was due to pain. Sleep disturbance, as described in the Penn State study, can possibly be a trigger for inflammation. Sleep deprivation can also affect pain modulation.

Stress alters neurotransmitters that regulate mood and emotion, leaving a person more susceptible to depression and anxiety. Depression has been associated with an increase in the amount of proinflammatory circulating cytokines.

Bottom line: Patients with arthritis need to learn how to control stress as part of their treatment.

Special Complimentary Teleseminar

For Arthritis Sufferers Only…

“Make This Your Best Year Ever...”

Discover Seven Little Known Secrets to Transform Your Health With the …

• Right Exercise
• Right Diet
• Right Stress Busters…

…That Most Doctors Don’t Know About!

o Learn how to blast away those pesky food cravings!
o Feel great with these common sense exercise tips for arthritis patients!
o Ratchet down fatigue without drugs!
o Clobber stress with this single fastest fix!

Join me on the phone Tuesday evening, January 13, 2009 at 7 PM Eastern Time in the comfort of your own home. Register NOW! (The number of phone lines we can accommodate is limited) Register by calling Michelle at 301 624-1164 or online at this link:

(Copy the link into your browser. If you have any questions contact us at

Arthritis Tip of the Month

For the Hobby Nut…

If you do a lot of reading, use a book holder or prop your book on a small pillow on your lap. This will reduce the amount of stress and strain on your hands.

For people that like to golf, make sure you build up the grip size on your golf clubs. This will reduce the strain on the joints and make the golf club easier to hold.

If you’re a tennis player, ditto.

Always, always, always, always stretch before you play. (Do you think I think stretching is important? Darn right!!!)

For those people who are into arts and crafts, using spring action scissors will help with cutting.

There’s nothing wrong with being a couch potato some of the time. A large button universal remote will be a lot easier to use than the standard TV remote control.

That’s it for this month. Hope it’s been helpful.

I'll be back next month with more news.

Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

If you like this e-zine, please do a friend and me a big favor and "pay it forward."

If a friend DID forward this to you and if you like what you read, please subscribe by visiting...

Insider Arthritis Tips A monthly ezine on arthritis written by a board-certified rheumatologist with tons of excellent and useful information for anyone interested in arthritis

Back to Back Issues Page