I know that seems odd, because you would think the feelings that often come to the surface with crying would actually aggravate symptoms but truly, for me, that is not the case. I used to hear that "a cry will do you good" but I never realized until RA just how true that really is!
There are actually 5 distinct ways that crying can help us manage our RA...no kidding...
1) Stress: Crying can lower your stress levels. Crying helps to remove some of the chemicals and hormones that are built up in the body from stress. If you compare shedding tears to shedding sweat during exercise, the same process occurs. Exercising relieves stress and removes built up chemicals in the body. However, if you hold back your tears, you can increase your stress levels which can lead to other health issues such as high blood pressure and heart problems.
2) Mood: Crying is associated with an emotional response. When tears are shed, the endocrine system releases endorphins (“feel-good” hormones) that stabilize the mood. When we cry, we give our bodies the ability to stabilize and become content again.
3) Cold and Flu Prevention: Tears are natural antibacterial and antiviral solutions that work to fight the germs that we get in our eyes. The fluid lysozyme in tears is capable of killing up to 95% of all bacteria in a matter of minutes. Just like your nose has hair and nasal tunnels to collect bacteria and germs, your eyes have tears to help prevent you from getting sick!
4) Detox: Studies showed that tears that are formed out of emotional distress or grief had more toxic byproducts in them than tears of irritation (from itching or onion peeling). This means that emotional tears, tears made of stress, are capable of removing wastes and toxins from our body.
5) Lubrication: One of the most important things that tears do for us is that they enable us to see. Tears moisten our eyes and prevent dehydration of the membranes surrounding the eyeball. Without tears to lubricate our eyes, we would not be able to see. Sjogren's Syndrome, which often accompanies RA is an autoimmune disease that creates real issues with tears and saliva for many of us!
This has been a tough two weeks for me as I have been attempting (for the third and final time!) to get off the corticosteroid that I have taken now for over 2 years at a low dose to help with the remicade infusions. It did not work and once again the pain, swelling, fatigue and this time even a low grade fever that accompanied the flare produced LOTS of tears! I noticed that each time the tears came...which I did not always allow....I felt some short time relief however brief. When I held them back I actually felt much worse and found that the days were even more difficult. Now clearly I could not spend my days crying and sobbing but what I did determine is that allowing myself some quiet time to shed some tears and really release the sadness and frustration was "healing" in its own right.
I also was crying from fear to be totally honest. I had discussed with my rheumatologist at my last visit that it was probably time to move onto a different biologic DMARD and that always gives me pause. I worry about whether a new one will work, how long will it take to work, will I still need the d--- corticosteroid or will it work effectively without it and for how long? So far the longest any DMARD has worked for me is 4 1/2 years. I worry that I will exhaust all of the options and then what??? So, decisions, decisions, and with that comes fear, anxiety, stress, and eventually tears...but that is OK!
As I have discovered, tears are truly one of the miracles of the human body that can actually serve a huge purpose for all of us and be yet another tool in the management of RA!
So go watch a "tearjerker" movie and enjoy the benefits of tears! Nan