Anxiety is a very physical condition. While it may be called a "mental" health condition, anxiety is loaded with physical symptoms that can have a fairly profound impact on your life.
Some of these symptoms are severe enough that they hinder movement, making it less likely that you'll move, be active, or use good posture. Unfortunately, allowing yourself to adapt to hindered movement is itself something that can contribute to further anxiety.
Hindered Movement = Anxiety?
Aches and pains are a common part of life. But when they start to become severe, or you start to feel them often, you should visit a doctor and combat the anxiety that may be causing these movement problems.
Take my anxiety test now to learn more.
Causes of Movement Pains and Issues
Stress is incredibly complex. It causes several physical symptoms that can create problems with movement. In addition, during intense anxiety, the body may feel weaker and make you want to sit or stand in a specific way. My anxiety test will teach you more about your anxiety.
Anything physical can affect your movement in some way. But the most common reasons that anxiety hinders movement is because of:
- Back Pain Back pain and shoulder pain can be fairly severe with anxiety and stress. Generally it starts weak, but over time the pain can grow. Anxiety also causes hypersensitivity, which means that regular back pain will feel more severe irregular back pain, leading to fewer movements.
- Cramping Cramping is not terribly common with anxiety, but it does occur, and cramping can be very intense and painful. Cramping makes it much harder to move, and many people find that once they start cramping they avoid moving that part of their body even after the cramp is gone.
- General Pains/Shooting Nerves Anxiety can also cause strange pains in the arms and legs, shooting nerves, and a feeling of having trouble moving your legs and arms. Your movement isn't necessarily impacted, but it can feel that way to the point where people drastically adjust their movements as a result.
It's also important to note that not all problems with movement are from anxiety itself. Rather, they're from behaviors that occur due to other symptoms related for anxiety. For example, during periods of anxiety a person may be more prone to sitting in awkward positions, laying down more, etc. These coping behaviors may create their own aches and pains because they are unnatural for your body.
It's actually not uncommon to find that you are more likely to change your posture when you're feeling stressed or anxious, and often you'll have no idea these changes take place. You may even find yourself leaning unusual directions.
As mentioned earlier, anxiety also causes oversensitivity, so you're more likely to find yourself noticing not only anxiety fueled discomforts, but also normal discomforts that those without anxiety brush off. In rare causes anxiety causes psychosomatic pains (pains caused by the mind). All of these may play a role in the development of impaired movements.
Hindered Movements Lead to More Anxiety
Another problem is that movement - or a lack of movement - is actually a cause of anxiety. Many people develop anxiety because they're not exercising, and when you have anxiety, the less you move the more likely you are going to experience anxiety symptoms.
Inactivity can also lead to more aches and pains, and this can create a problematic cycle. Inactivity causes anxiety. Anxiety causes impaired movements. Impaired movements and anxiety cause more aches and pains, and suddenly you're inactive and less likely to get the activity you need.
How to Reduce Problems With Pains and Muscles
There's no single approach for dealing with these types of movement issues, since there are many different issues that can affect movement. Even though they may be caused by anxiety, once you experience the muscle tension and pain that anxiety produces, it's hard to cure it on its own.
It starts by addressing your symptoms directly. Talk to your doctor about over the counter pain relief, see if there are any massage parlors available in your area, and make sure that you're stretching as often as possible - which is important to keep muscles loose and active. When you can move, make sure that you're exercising (even if you didn't exercise previously) since exercise reduces anxiety and unwanted muscle aches.
You'll then need to find the right program for fighting your anxiety altogether.
I've helped many people with impaired movement overcome their anxiety in the past. Start with my free 7 minute anxiety test now to learn more about your anxiety and available treatments.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.