Anxiety can cause a host of unfortunate aches and pains that make it even more challenging to manage your anxiety. It's hard enough to handle all of the stressful thoughts you have shooting around in your mind. It gets much harder when you also have to try to live through physical ailments that arise from your anxiety.
This is the case with muscle cramps - a common anxiety symptom that makes it much harder to go about your day to day life. This article will explore muscle cramps and the how to overcome them.
Muscle Cramps = Anxiety?
Muscle cramps may be caused by a host of conditions, and as you get older these cramps may become far more common. Don't let anxiety muscle cramps affect you. Learn to control your anxiety with my free anxiety test and your muscle cramps will decrease in number.
Causes of Muscle Cramps From Anxiety
While most people have experienced muscle issues as a result of anxiety, cramping itself is not traditionally thought of as an anxiety symptom. Nevertheless, it is actually fairly common. While any severe muscle cramps should be seen by a doctor, those with anxiety do tend to develop muscle spasms and cramping in a way that those without anxiety rarely experience.
Muscle cramps rarely occur alone, so take my free 7-minute anxiety test to learn more about other anxiety symptoms. But the key takeaway is that if you experience more cramping while you have anxiety, there's a good chance that the two are related.
What causes the muscle cramps are a bit less obvious. The following are the most common and likely causes of this type of cramping:
- Muscle "Freezing" Those with anxiety tend to use their muscles less than those without anxiety. Yet anxiety also causes adrenaline to course through your veins and make you want to move your muscles more. For some people, this causes the muscles to essentially freeze in a less than ideal position because they're not moving enough to work out and loosen the muscles.
- Dehydration Dehydration is a cause of muscle cramping even for those without anxiety. But dehydration may in some ways be more common if you have anxiety for two reasons. First, some people find that anxiety causes them to urinate more and sweat more leading to faster dehydration. Second, anxiety can make people feel less thirsty, which in turn means they're not drinking as much water as they should be.
- Tension Anxiety causes significant muscle tension, and this can lead to two different issues that cause more cramping. When the muscles are tense they may need to spasm (cramp) in order to rebuild some of their energy. In addition, tense muscles often become tired muscles and tired muscles are also prone to muscle cramping.
The causes of muscle cramping from anxiety are actually not that different from the causes of muscle cramping in those without anxiety. The problem is that when you have anxiety you put yourself in more of a position to experience those issues that lead to cramping.
The Other Cause of Anxiety Muscle Cramps
There is also one other thing to realize about muscle cramps and anxiety: sometimes, the cramps have nothing to do with your anxiety, but anxiety makes you focus on and care about the cramps more. Anxiety causes the mind to pay more attention to the body. This may cause you to not only "feel" your cramps more than you would without anxiety, but also remember them more to the point where they seem like a pattern.
Some people have cramps almost every day and it means nothing, and they forget about the cramps soon after. But those with anxiety can rarely do that, and often remember each and every time they got a cramp and how often they're occurring. It's important to keep in mind that anxiety may not be causing muscle cramps at all, but anxiety is what makes them more noticeable and memorable.
How to Stop Muscle Cramps
No matter what causes the cramping (anxiety or otherwise) the cure for muscle cramps is the same. Drink lots of water to ensure that your body is not dehydrated. Try to move more often so that you're able to warm up your muscles and prevent them from freezing. Exercise more so that your muscles are in a bit better shape (although exercise can lead to cramping on its own). And improve your diet to make sure your cramping isn't caused by a need for any vitamins and minerals.
You can't stop these cramps without stopping your anxiety. So your next step is to find and commit to a treatment that will prevent your anxiety from ever coming back again.
I've worked with thousands of people suffering from muscle cramps. Start with my free anxiety test to find out more about what these symptoms mean and what it takes to treat them.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Dec 15, 2017.