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Can Anxiety Cause Shooting Pains?


Shooting pains, however brief or infrequent, can be disconcerting. After all, shooting pains can be symptoms of wider, scarier conditions, so if you’re concerned about the frequency of your shooting pains it’s alway best to contact your doctor. This being said, if you suffer from anxiety, shooting pains are quite a common physical symptom.


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 Shooting Pain?

There are few reasons as to why anxiety might cause shooting pain, the main one being that when we’re in fight, flight or freeze mode, our muscles become tense so that we’re ready to run or strike the perceived threat. In small doses this is fine, but if we hold tension in our muscles for too long the nerves can act erratically resulting in twitching or shooting pains.


Think about it like holding a plank exercise for too long, your body starts to tell you to stop through shakes or pain, this is a similar process. It’s our over stimulated nervous system acting out and sending false signals. This is because when we’re in survival mode, we’re a lot more sensitive to things happening around us, which is great for spotting movements of perceived threat, but less great for allowing our nervous system to relay messages and signals as it should. Essentially, our nervous system gets overwhelmed and starts firing messages involuntarily, such as shooting pains.


How Can I Stop This Symptom?

As this symptom stems from our fight, flight or freeze response, the main thing that we can do to combat it is to focus on our breathing. 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 up and relieve the tension being held in our body.


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.