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Can Anxiety Cause Joint Popping & Cracking?


Whilst joint popping and cracking happens to us all and is normally pretty harmless, it can be worrying if it starts to happen more frequently. Increased joint cracking, especially painful cracking can be a symptom of many much larger conditions, so if you’re concerned, it’s always best to contact your doctor. This being said, there have been some links between anxiety and cracky joints. 


As with a lot of physical symptoms of anxiety, the triggers lie within our caveman brain. This is the survival-driven part of our brain that our newer, rational cortex grew on top of. Its primary concern is keeping us alive, so when our brain perceives a threat, it releases these stress chemicals and activates a response called the fight, flight or freeze response. The stress hormone cortisol or the chemical adrenaline are released and this puts our body on high alert, and as a result, our body prepares to either fight, flight or freeze. 


Why Does Anxiety Cause Joint Popping & Cracking?

When our body goes into fight, flight or freeze mode, it causes our muscles to tense and strain, ready for us to strike out or flee. This is all well and good if we’re in danger, but the longer we stay in this survival mode the more of a toll it’s going to take on our muscles and our joints – after all, they’re all connected.


So, when the tension and strain is lifted, the muscles can feel fatigued from overuse and we rely more on our joints and they’re going to become more noisy than usual as they take the strain. 


How Can I Stop This Symptom?

As this symptom stems from our fight, flight or freeze response and accompanying tense muscles, the main thing that we can do to combat it is to focus on our breathing and keep moving. This should calm our central nervous system, distract our mind from the perceived threat, and deactivate our fight, flight or freeze response allowing our muscles to loosen and our joints to relax and not be quite so vocal.


Of course, in order to prevent the symptoms of anxiety occurring in the first place, you need to manage or build strategies to tackle your anxiety. There are several options available including CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), mindfulness, medication and group therapy. If you’re unsure, please contact your GP for more information.