How Anxiety Can Cause Joint and Muscle Pain
Put simply, anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. Most everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, but some individuals experience excessive amounts of anxiety, which can be due to an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are the most common form of emotional disorder, affecting 40 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Some of the most common symptoms of anxiety disorders include:
- Excessive worrying
- Agitation or irritability
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Panic attacks
- Tendency to avoid social situations
- Irrational fears
- Tense muscles and joint and muscle pain
When an individual experiences anxiety or long-term stress, the body continually produces cytokine molecules. Cytokines are a type of signaling molecules that mediate and regulate immunity, inflammation, and hematopoiesis. Cytokines affect the growth of all blood cells that help the body’s immune and inflammation response. One of the main reasons that anxiety can cause joint and muscle pain is because too many of these molecules cause inflammation to the joints and more pain when performing normal body movements. Anxiety also worsens long-term stress and causes the brain to release excessive amounts of adrenaline from the fight or flight system. Over time, surges of adrenaline can damage the blood vessels, increase blood pressure, cause anxiety, weight gain, headaches, and insomnia, and even increase risks of heart attacks and stroke.
In addition, stress-related anxiety disorders are associated with risks of autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases cause the immune system to produce antibodies that attack and damage the body’s healthy tissue instead of doing their intended job of fighting infection. With conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, the antibodies attach to the connective tissue, which leads to pain, swelling, and joint damage.
In more simple terms, another way that anxiety affects the whole body is due to the fact that stressful situations cause us to carry lots of tension in areas like the shoulders. Anxiety often causes individuals to tighten up their muscles without even realizing it, which makes joints do extra work, and can also lead to excessive inflammation and pain.
How to Reduce Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
Now that we understand that anxiety can cause body pains, and we are familiar with some of the ways it can do this, let’s take a moment to learn about how we can reduce these physical symptoms and achieve long-term physical and mental peace. Some of the best ways to reduce physical symptoms of anxiety include:
- Be physically active
When implementing additional activity into your lifestyle, it is important to do so in a way that is safe for your body. At ProFysio Physical Therapy, we are able to work with your body’s needs. We are a judgment-free zone, and we are happy to discuss your anxiety symptoms and the ways they might be manifesting as physical pain. Once we are on the same page about your physical health and your needs, our exercise programs will be a great way to help ease anxiety and its symptoms. Exercise releases “feel-good” endorphins and other natural chemicals in the brain that can enhance an individual’s sense of well-being. These results might not be immediate, and it will be important to stay committed to the exercises in order to experience long-term success.
- Get massages
Massages are quite a popular service, and many people flock to them because the service inherently addresses the connection between the body and mind and works to create healing for both. Not only can massages work to relieve tight muscles and bring healing to individuals with chronic muscle pain, but they can also do wonders for those who struggle with anxiety. A deep tissue massage involves a massage therapist who uses a health amount of pressure to relieve tension from layers of the muscles and connective tissues. Massages work to help the body relax, which can help those who receive one free their mind from patterns of anxiousness and fearful thoughts.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine
This tip is pretty self-explanatory, but these substances are all known to worsen symptoms of anxiety. These substances change the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, leading to worsened anxiety.
- Make sure you are getting enough sleep
Insufficient sleep and excessive anxiety often go hand-in-hand. If you are worrying excessively, it might be harder to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. This can lead to an unhealthy cycle of insomnia and anxiety disorders, which work together to worsen symptoms over time. Getting on a healthy sleeping schedule is a simple but powerful way to take your health into your own hands and alleviate anxiety.
The team at ProFysio Physical Therapy can create an exercise program that will work with your body’s needs to address physical symptoms of anxiety. Call us at (732) 812-5200 or contact us online to begin your journey today.