Pain is always distressing. It doesn't matter if you know the cause of the pain or whether or not the pain represents something dangerous. Pain is distracting, upsetting, and makes it hard to enjoy the things going on in your life.
When the cause of that pain is a mystery, it can become even more upsetting. Those that struggle with arm pain often feel that their pain may be a sign of something more serious, and wonder if their pain is something that will ever start.
Is Your Arm Pain From Anxiety?
Anxiety can cause many different types of pain. But it can also make you more sensitive to smaller pains that otherwise you may not notice, especially if your anxiety is severe. Score the severity of your anxiety and compare it to others with our free anxiety test.
Your Pain May Have a Meaning
Many people hope that our website can tell them if their arm pain is from anxiety, but unfortunately, there is no way to know. Talk to your doctor. Your doctor can rule out any other causes of recurrent arm pain and help you recognize if anxiety is the likely culprit.
Note that arm pain is never the only sign of anxiety. It's often a part of a more significant anxiety problem and occurs with other anxiety symptoms. Start our free 7-minute anxiety test to learn more about your anxiety and its treatments.
Causes of Arm Pain From Anxiety
The causes of arm pain may vary, and different anxiety symptoms may cause different levels of arm pain. The most common causes of arm pain include:
- Muscle Tension The single most likely cause of arm pain is muscle tension. Anxiety causes muscles in the arms in the neck, shoulders, back, and arms to become very tense, and that pressure may result in varying levels of pain. Depending on the way you're sitting or standing, that pain may be more pronounced in some areas than others, and for many that pain is mostly limited to the arm area.
- Hyperventilation Pain Those suffering from panic attacks are prone to hyperventilation, and hyperventilation can cause a combination of chest pain and arm pain that mimics what someone would feel during a heart attack. That's one of the reasons that seeing a doctor is still important - it's always important to rule out any heart issues, even if you're positive it's anxiety. Hyperventilation causes blood vessels to constrict, leading to sharp pains that may radiate down the arm.
- Overcompensation Those with anxiety often alter their lifestyle and their behaviors based on how their anxiety makes them feel. In some cases, this may cause you to start sleeping or sitting in ways that lead to more pain even without realizing it. These changes can be completely unnoticeable to others, but if you start moving your hands and arms differently, pain may be the result.
- Over-sensitivity to Natural Arm Pain Arm pain also happens all the time. If you sleep on your arm funny, or you don't exercise enough, or you accidentally tweak your arm a little - all of these can cause arm pain that is natural. However, those suffering from anxiety and panic attacks often can't help but focus too strongly on any pains, and thus think the arm pain is abnormal even when it is not.
- Psychosomatic Anxiety does have some unfortunate consequences, and one of them is that it's possible to feel pains that may not be there because your mind is looking for them. Ask yourself if your pain started, or starting becoming more frequent after you read about heart attack pains. Many people find that after they learn that heart attacks cause pain to radiate down the left arm and chest, they start to experience pain more often.
In rare cases, you may also have a disorder that causes arm pain and anxiety together. That's why it's still a good idea to talk to a doctor. Nevertheless, anxiety is a potential cause of arm pain and one that affects millions of people struggling with anxiety and panic attacks.
Anxiety Arm Pain Treatment
For those whose arm pain is caused by anxiety, there's no need to be too concerned. Anxiety cannot cause any long-term damage to your arm, and once you control your anxiety the arm pain will go away. Three ways to reduce your arm pain include:
- Moving and massaging the arm.
- Distracting yourself from the pain.
- Taking painkillers.
These are only temporary fixes, but they'll reduce some of the severity of the arm pain and make living with arm discomfort easier. You'll also need to find a way to cure your anxiety.
In the past several years I've helped thousands of people with arm pain from anxiety overcome their symptoms. But I start them all off with my free 7-minute anxiety test. Only by taking the test can I get an idea of what you're suffering from and recommend a way to fight it.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Dec 05, 2017.