3 Ways Allergies Can Worsen Arthritis

If you suffer from arthritis, you may be all too familiar with joint pain, stiffness, and limited mobility. While there are certain risk factors for arthritis such as advancing age, genetics, injury, or overuse, many people develop arthritic conditions who have no known risk factors. Not getting enough exercise, being overweight, and even eating rich foods, can worsen the symptoms of arthritis. Other, less common things, such as allergies can also exacerbate your symptoms. Here are three ways allergies can worsen arthritis, and what you can do about them:

Systemic Inflammation

Allergies can contribute to systemic inflammation because they cause the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. When your body produces an overabundance of cytokines, your joints may become more painful because of this response. To suppress the release of cytokines, take an over-the-counter antihistamine, or ask your doctor about prescribing a histamine blocker. Once the level of cytokines diminishes, your joint pain may dramatically improve. 


If you have arthritis in your neck or spine, allergic sneezing may be unbearable. When you sneeze, it traumatizes the muscles in your upper body, and for most people, this is not a problem. Those with degenerative conditions of the neck and spine, however, may experience severe pain.

If your allergies cause sneezing episodes, consider wearing a neck stability collar to absorb the shock. Diphenhydramine will also help curtail sneezing, however, it can make you drowsy and dizzy. If you cannot tolerate the side effects, inhaling steam from a pot of boiling water or taking a hot shower can help clear your sinuses and diminish sneezing. 

Nasal Congestion

While allergies usually cause a runny nose, they can also lead to nasal congestion. If you have arthritis, you may notice more pain during an allergy flare-up. Nasal congestion can cause pain and pressure under your eyes, on your cheeks, on your forehead, and even the back of your head and neck. In some cases, you may notice an increase in spinal and shoulder pain, simply because of nasal congestion.

To diminish swelling of your nasal passages, use a decongestant nasal spray or take an over-the-counter oral decongestant. While very effective in restoring breathing, oral decongestants can cause side effects. These include anxiety, insomnia, a fast heart rate, dizziness, and sweating. 

If you have arthritis and allergies, work with your arthritis doctor to develop a therapeutic plan of care. He or she will prescribe the appropriate medication, and may even recommend that you try alternative and complementary therapies to help relieve your symptoms.