We put our bodies through a lot on a daily basis so it’s perfectly natural that the muscles and joints ache sometimes. This is normally after exertion such as exercise or when you haven’t been able to rest for a while. It’s partially because of this inability to rest that miscellaneous body aches have also been linked to stress and anxiety.
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 Can Anxiety Cause My Body To Ache?
When our fight, flight or freeze response is activated our muscles tense, ready to strike or run away from the perceived threat. For small amounts of time, our body can handle this, it’s like when we tense certain parts of our body for exercise, but if we do it for long periods of time it can make our muscles sore. If you’re having an anxiety attack that lasts 10 minutes it’s like the equivalent of holding a plank for 10 minutes for your muscles and joints – so you’re definitely going to feel it in the morning.
Another reason is that when we’re in this survival mode, our body becomes hypersensitive. Logically, this is to spot any danger coming our way, but when we’re suffering from anxiety it just makes us more tense and jumpy at sudden sounds or movements. It also makes us notice niggles and aches that were too small to notice beforehand, perhaps blowing them up into more of a problem then they might actually be.
How Can I Stop This Symptom?
To help alleviate body aches caused by stress or anxiety you can try some light stretches and breathing exercises to calm your nervous system and loosen the muscles and joints back up. Unknown aches and pains can be quite a worrying symptom to experience, so if you are concerned please contact your doctor.
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.