Psychosomatics of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a dystrophic (i.e., involving metabolic disorders) change in joint cartilage of a non-inflammatory nature. Joint cartilage is connective tissue that performs supportive functions. It’s important to distinguish two seemingly similar diseases: osteoarthritis and arthritis. Unlike arthritis, osteoarthritis appears in leg joints that bear the most load: hip, knee, ankle, as well as elbow, temporomandibular, and lower jaw joints.

Osteoarthritis also differs in that it does not spread to other body parts (with rare exceptions during exacerbation). In most cases, osteoarthritis results from aging when cartilage does not receive enough nutrients and starts consuming its own cartilage lining. Some symptoms of osteoarthritis are similar to arthritis: pain during movement, bone deformation, swelling, stiffness, burning sensation, aching.

However, specific symptoms for osteoarthritis include morning stiffness in joints (requiring warming up for normal function), dull pain during movement or strain (pain at rest if inflammation starts), crunching during bending and straightening, no skin redness at the affected site, rare or no swelling, contracture (inability of the limb to fully bend and straighten), affecting large joints, and changes in joint structure.

Types of osteoarthritis include:

  1. Rheumatoid (metabolic disorder in synovial fluid),
  2. Post-traumatic,
  3. Dysplastic (congenital joint weakness),
  4. Hormonal (in women); and subtypes like:
  5. Gonarthrosis (knee joint damage),
  6. Coxarthrosis (inflammation of hip joints),
  7. Osteoarthrosis (affecting fingers and toes).

Causes of osteoarthritis include spine diseases, heavy physical exertion, excess weight, sedentary lifestyle, old age, etc. It’s noted that these causes are common to both osteoarthritis and arthritis and are related to the fact that joint cells die faster than they are replenished due to insufficient nutrients and oxygen. This imbalance initially goes unnoticed but manifests as pain when dead cells reach a critical mass.

Psychosomatics of Osteoarthritis

Recall that joint cartilage has key functions: shock absorption, pressure absorption during mechanical load, and providing smooth joint surfaces. In psychosomatic terms, cartilage helps soften psycho-emotional load received in life’s journey and absorbs part of negative experiences weighing on a person. Stresses and constant worries lead to increased levels of corticosteroid hormones, which inhibit hyaluronic acid production needed for joint fluid. Deprived of this fluid, cartilage begins to dry and crack.

Additionally, stress hormones worsen blood flow in joint areas, negatively affecting their condition. Moreover, constant nervous tension causes muscle hypertonus, which compresses joints, leading to their deformation. Psychologists found that osteoarthritis affects people who harbor anger and resentment towards others. Psychosomatic specialists have drawn the following psychological profile: rigid, inflexible towards others, unwilling to take responsibility for problems in their life, blaming others, feeling injustice and self-pity.

Outwardly restrained, they experience dissatisfaction, irritation, anxiety, suppressed anger internally. These negative emotions begin to destroy their joint cartilage.

Psychological Causes of Osteoarthritis

Louise Hay writes that joints symbolize changes in life direction and ease of movement. Thus, problems in this area manifest as osteoarthritis. She continues that the knee symbolizes pride, a sense of self-importance, with knee diseases caused by arrogance, stubbornness, inability to be flexible, fear, inflexibility, unwillingness to yield.

The elbow, according to Hay, symbolizes changes in direction and acceptance of new experiences. Inability or unwillingness to accept new life experiences, resistance, leads to illness. Shoulders represent the ability to experience the joy of life – inner pleasure in enduring life’s twists and turns. Our attitude towards life turns it into a burden, immediately affecting the shoulder joint.

Feet symbolize our understanding of ourselves, life, others. Hay believes that foot diseases, including osteoarthritis, indicate fear of the future and fear of taking a step forward in life. Some experts view osteoarthritis as a disease of workaholics, accustomed to constant work and unable to live otherwise. They burden their bodies with work to avoid feeling the emptiness within.

They exhibit qualities like stubbornness, rigidity, stiffness. Some psychologists have identified psychological causes of osteoarthritis based on the affected joint:

  • Shoulder joint symbolizes responsibility, obligations, with its disease indicating carrying the burden for many. Left shoulder disease points to family burden, right shoulder to work.
  • The elbow joint, psychologists write, corresponds to holding on, appropriating. Excessive retention or appropriation of what’s not theirs affects this joint.
  • Osteoarthritis of the wrist joint is linked to performing routine, minor work, affecting people who keep their hands busy to avoid thinking.
  • Hip osteoarthritis indicates constant striving for success in competitive environments. Left hip joint disease points to family and close relationship issues, right hip to work competition.
  • Knee osteoarthritis points to pride, refusal to admit wrongdoing or weakness.
  • Another reason for knee osteoarthritis is emotional exhaustion and lack of joy in life, making walking heavier, adversely affecting knee flexibility.

Paths to Healing

Considering that the main psychological cause of osteoarthritis is anger and resentment towards others rather than oneself, the path to healing lies in changing one’s attitude from negative to positive. Objections like “I don’t bother anyone, don’t argue, live quietly, where’s the osteoarthritis from?” may arise.

Outwardly, a person might seem unaffected, but what’s going on inside? Maybe, there are volcanoes of anger erupting with the fire of wrath? But suppressed by the person, and destroying them from within. What’s the solution? First, accept the thought that it’s not others who created your anger, but you.

People live their lives and are not obliged to meet your expectations. What you dislike doesn’t mean they should only do what pleases you. And your dislike is a signal that you possess that quality, as you reacted negatively to it.

For instance, each person reacts differently to the same situation, depending on what they carry within: negativity or positivity. Some might get angry at noisy children, while others rejoice in their cheerfulness and smile. The issue lies in the reacting person, not the children.

Hence, the conclusion: change yourself, not others.


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