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How Anxiety Can Create Aches and Pains

Aches and pains are a common part of anxiety. While anxiety may be categorized as a mental health condition, anxiety symptoms tend to be very real and very physical - so physical that sometimes the physical symptoms are more prevalent than the mental symptoms.

Easily some of the most common symptoms are aches and pains. Anxiety can cause many different types, and a small sample of them are listed below.

Are Your Pains From Anxiety?

Those with severe anxiety may feel aches and pains, and they may be aso more aware of aches and pains causing them to amplify. Find out your anxiety severity score and compare your symptoms to others with our free 7 minute anxiety test.

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Causes of Aches

Every person is different, and every type of anxiety disorder is different. If you haven't taken my free 7 minute anxiety test, it's important you take it now so that you understand as much about your anxiety as possible. Causes for your aches and pains vary depending on the location, the type of anxiety you have, and more.

So without knowing which you're talking about, telling you the cause or effects can be tough. But here are some signs that you may have anxiety, along with their potential causes:

Muscle Tension

It all starts with muscle tension, which is the most common type of pain associated with anxiety and stress. Muscle tension is the result of muscle contractions, which occur as a result of stress. If you've ever experienced a great deal of physical exertion, you're familiar with the basics of this pain - they're the effects of your muscles contracting and exerting energy. Stress causes similar tension.

Furthermore, muscle tension can also lead to the buildup of lactic acid, which can lead to muscle pains. Both contribute to the feeling of aches and pain that people experience while stressed. This tension can be felt in almost every muscle in the body, but it's most common in:

  • The back
  • The shoulders
  • The neck

However, it should be noted that you can experience muscle tension from anxiety in literally every muscle, and you may even find that your legs or arms are prone to aches as a result of this type of tension.

Behavioral Responses to Anxiety

A similar and related problem has to do with your own behavioral responses to your anxiety and your aches and pains. For example, perhaps your anxiety has caused you to feel fatigue or low energy, and you spend a great deal of time slouching in your chair. That behavioral response will increase the likelihood of creating lower back pain, because slouching can create this type of discomfort.

Muscle tension can create similar problems. If you have muscle tension with your shoulder, you may lift objects in a manner your body isn't accustomed to, and this can cause you to create pain in your lower back. This is just one of many examples of how aches and pains may be the result of how you respond to your symptoms.

Chest Pains and Other Panic Symptoms

Not all aches and pains are in your muscles either. Some anxiety disorders can cause other symptoms, like chest pains, a painful tingling in the hands and feet, and more. These are often the result of hyperventilation, which occurs during panic attacks and severe anxiety. They have almost no relation to muscle tension, but still cause their own discomforts.


Headaches are tricky. Most anxiety headaches are actually just a form of tension, known as a "tension headache." Your muscles tense up, and your head experiences pain as a result.

But anxiety is also known to cause migraines, and migraines can lead to immense discomfort around your head, as well as symptoms that may create more anxiety. So headaches deserve their own place as a separate condition.


Another thing to keep in mind with anxiety is that not all aches and pains are caused by anxiety. Every day you experience very small discomforts all over your body for many reasons. Someone without anxiety is able to ignore them and they quickly go away.

But those with anxiety, especially anxiety attacks, tend to suffer from what's known as "hypersensitivity." Hypersensitivity is when you become too attuned to the way your body feels, to the point where you notice nearly every physical sensation in your body. When you pay that much attention to those sensations, your mind has a tendency to amplify them, and that makes them more likely to cause more pain than they would have naturally.

Other Ache and Pain Issues

It should also be noted that anxiety is an incredibly complex condition that causes many different changes to the way your body operates. Some people experience throat pain. Others experience unusual nerve sensations in their legs. Others experience random cramping. Still others experience abdominal discomfort or shooting pains that have no apparent causes.

Only a doctor can diagnose where these pains came from. But there are countless examples of aches and pains that are the result of anxiety despite no apparent reason for them to occur.

How to Stop These Pains

Most of these aches and pains are treatable with the very same treatments you would use if you had these problems without anxiety. For example, over the counter painkillers are a popular treatment, and stretching, drinking water, and exercise may reduce some of the discomforts.

But in the end, you'll still need to reduce your anxiety if you want them to truly disappear. I've helped thousands of those suffering from anxiety stop these anxiety aches forever starting with my free 7 minute anxiety test. Take the test to learn more about your anxiety and how to treat it.

Start the test here now.

Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.

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