Stretch Arthritis Stress Away | Reader's Digest

Stretch Arthritis Stress Away

Prevent stressed muscles and ease arthritis pain.

For many people, the stresses of life — be they mental or physical — show up quickly in the neck muscles. Stretches and exercises can relieve a neck ache, but here are nine ways to avoid having your body tense up in the first place. And all are particularly good for arthritis as well!

    1. Slick and sly. Be like a cat and stretch often — and luxuriously. Your body wants to stretch, and often does so unconsciously. Stretching loosens the muscles, helps your blood flow, relieves your bones and joints, and refreshes your spirit. For a person with arthritis, stretching is as healthy a habit as you can develop. It can be a formal, multi-step routine, or it can be just standing up and exalting the sky.

    2. Find something funny. Make a point to practice finding a situation’s laugh potential. The obvious reason is that humor relieves the tensions of everyday life. But not so obvious are the physiological effects of a good laugh. Feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins are released when you laugh that ease pain and improve attitude. Plus, laughter stimulates the heart, lungs, muscles, and immune system.

    3. Chop errands. Cut your to-do list in half. We know we’re not going to get everything done that we want to in a day. And yet so many of us wake up with a set of expectations for the day that are grand beyond reason. Be fair to yourself: Make your task list reasonable, and achieve it. There’s no better way to reduce physical and emotional stress than regularly feeling like a success.

    4. Glory in hot water. Upping water’s temperature soothes and supports the joints. The heat brings blood to your joints, muscles, and skin, flushing you with nutrients and relief. And the calmness of a soak in a tub or Jacuzzi makes life just seem better. Ask your doctor first if a Jacuzzi habit is healthy for you — the heat can alter your circulation.

    5. Not all pillows are created equal. Invest in your bed (and your bedding). There are pillows, and then there are pillows. Same for mattresses, mattress pads, sheets, and comforters. A bed that is firm but luxurious, that makes you say “ahhhh” when you lie down, that gives you the comfort you need for a great night’s sleep, is a wonderful investment for your health and your joints.

    6. Sacred rites. Create a midday ritual. Perhaps it’s a cup of tea, a walk, a stretch, a music break, or just a phone call. Whatever it is, take 5 to 15 minutes each afternoon for a personal break. Getting out of the intensity of everyday life for a short while is beneficial, both physically and emotionally. And by making it a constant ritual, you relax yourself merely by the knowledge that it is soon arriving.

    7. Trust touch. A good massage is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Every month or so, skip the weekend trip to the hair salon and spend the money instead on a massage. The muscle and joint relief will be substantial.

    8. Let nature inspire you. Live your life in ebbs and flows. In exploring the optimal workouts for athletes, researchers are beginning to believe that the best training method is to exert for a short period and then rest, rather than doing prolonged periods of exertion. It’s a theory that is applicable to all of us, particularly those with arthritis. Walk a few minutes; then relax a while. Clean for 15 minutes; then take a break. This way, you don’t overtax muscles, and you give all the parts of your body a chance to recover before exerting again.

    9. Let it be. If you are a human being, then certain truths are inevitable: The government is wrong; half your relatives are crazy; there’s never enough money; work is unfair; you’re surrounded by crazy drivers. You have a choice: Let it get to you, or don’t let it get to you. Our recommendation: When a cause for anger dangles in front of you, don’t take the bait. Life’s too short to be angry all the time. And it’s not fair to your body.