Chronic Pain Anxiety Symptoms
Chronic pain anxiety symptoms descriptions:
- You have chronic aches, pains, soreness, and tenderness anywhere on or in the body.
- Your muscles ache and pain persistently.
- You have persistent muscle tension, stiffness, and pain.
- Your muscles are constantly stiff and sore.
- Your joints are always sore, achy, tender, stiff.
- You have a persistent achy feeling in your bones.
- You have spots on or in your body that are always tender, achy, and sore.
- Your fingers, toes, hands, feet, arms, legs, back, head, neck, face, and any other area on or in your body constantly aches and feels sore and painful.
Anxiety chronic pain can persistently affect one area of the body only, can shift and affect another area or areas, and can migrate all over and affect many areas of the body over and over again.
Anxiety chronic pain can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you may feel chronic pain once and a while and not that often, feel it off and on, or feel it all the time.
Anxiety chronic pain may precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.
Anxiety chronic pain can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur ‘out of the blue’ and for no apparent reason.
Anxiety chronic pain can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves, where the chronic pain is strong one moment and eases off the next.
Anxiety chronic pain can change from day to day, and/or from moment to moment.
All of the above combinations and variations are common.
Anxiety chronic pain often seems stronger and more bothersome when undistracted, when trying to relax and rest, or when trying to go to sleep.
Many anxiety disorder sufferers have their sleep disrupted because of chronic pain. Many are also on strong pain medications in an attempt to diminish the pain.
Some people become immobilized due to the severity of their episodes of chronic pain.
When anxiety chronic pain persists 24/7 and indefinitely, it’s often referred to as ‘chronic pain.’ Fibromyalgia is another term used to categorize this type of chronic pain.
Why does anxiety cause chronic pain?
Because there are many medical conditions that can cause anxiety-like sensations and symptoms, including chronic pain, we recommend that you discuss all new, changing, persistent, and re-occurring symptoms with your doctor. If your doctor concludes that your symptoms are caused solely from anxiety and/or stress, you can be assured that there isn’t another medical condition causing them. Generally, most doctors can easily tell the difference between stress and anxiety caused sensations and symptoms from those caused by other medical reasons.
If you are uncertain about your doctor’s diagnosis, however, you may want to seek a second and even third opinion. But if all three opinions concur, you can feel confident that anxiety and/or stress is the cause of your symptoms and not some other medical or biological problem.
Anxiety and the stress it causes is a common cause of chronic pain. There are several reasons why anxiety can cause chronic pain. Three of the most common are:
1. Stress causes muscles to tighten.
Overly taught muscles can cause pain and tenderness. Persistently tight muscles can become very painful and sore.
When we sense danger, the body produces a stress response, which releases stress hormones into the bloodstream where they travel to targeted spots in the body to bring about specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes that enhance the body’s ability to deal with a threat—to either fight with or flee from it—which is the reason the stress response is often referred to as the fight or flight response.
A part of the stress response changes cause muscles to contract (tighten). Tight muscles make the body more resilient to attack when in dangerous situations. Unfortunately, when stress is caused by anxiety (worry, fretting, fearful thinking) and not by a real physical threat where tight muscles may be beneficial for survival, the body still prepares against danger the same way…by causing muscles to tense and tighten.
When stress responses occur infrequently, the body can recover relatively quickly from the physiological, psychological, and emotional changes the stress response brings about. But when stress responses occur too frequently and/or dramatically the body has a more difficult time recovering, which can result in the body remaining in a semi hyperstimulated state.
A body that has become hyperstimulated can experience persistent stress response readiness, which in this case, can cause persistent muscle tension and its related consequences, such as muscle aches, pains, tenderness, and soreness. As elevated stress persists, so can muscle-related problems increase and persist.
Muscle tension problems can also affect the body’s joints, which can cause joint problems and pain, tenderness, soreness, and achiness.
2. Stress adversely affects the body’s nervous system, including its nerves and how they function.
The body’s nervous system is responsible for receiving and sending sensory information to the brain. A main component of the nervous system is specialized cells called neurons (nerve cells), which communicate with each other using an electrochemical process (the combination of electricity and chemistry). For example, when a nerve impulse is received from one of our senses, such as from the nerve endings in the dermis layer of the skin, neurons relay this nerve impulse information through the nervous system network to the brain for interpretation.
This system of communication works efficiently when the body and nervous system are healthy. Problems can occur, however, when the nervous system becomes stress-response hyperstimulated.
For example, because of their electrochemical properties, neurons are particularly sensitive to stress hormone stimulation. So when they become overstimulated, they can act erratically and more involuntarily than normal, which can cause them to “misreport,” “over report,” and send “false” nerve impulse information to the brain. These anomalies can cause a wide range of unusual sensory-based sensations and symptoms, including those associated with this symptom.
“Overactive nerves” is another term used to describe this symptom.
Persistently elevated stress can negatively affect any part of the body, including the skin, muscles, nerves and nerve endings, joints, and bones. As a result, body pains can occur anywhere on the body including externally and internally. For some, the pain and tenderness is also accompanied by general fatigue and muscle weakness.
Since each body reacts somewhat differently to stress and anxiety, each experience may be somewhat different. And because many anxiety symptoms are “sensory”— having to do with sensations and feelings—there can be a wide range of ways this symptom can be experienced.
Sometimes these types of symptoms are caused by physical problems, such as infections, muscle tension or strain, sensitive nerves, or inflammation. Other times there is no physical cause. Since the nervous system is responsible for how we receive and interpret sensory information, a stressed nervous system can cause odd and abnormal sensations and feelings even though there is no real physical cause. This is the reason why medical tests can come back normal, yet our sensations and symptoms persist. We FEEL symptomatic even though there isn’t anything medically wrong.
3. Psychological stress can negatively affect pain modulation (the body’s ability to regulate pain).
This can cause a dramatic increase in how we experience pain, including chronic pain.
I (Jim Folk) experienced anxiety chronic pain, too. I know how unsettling it can be. But these types of symptoms generally aren’t harmful in and of themselves. They are simply the consequences of stress and persistently elevated stress.
How to get rid of anxiety chronic pain?
Because anxiety chronic pain is always caused by persistently elevated stress and its adverse effects on the body, reducing your body’s stress and giving it ample time to calm down will eliminate anxiety chronic pain…in time. But it may take more stress reduction and time than you expect. We explain why these types of symptoms can take a long time to subside in spite of our best recovery efforts in Chapters 3 and 4 in the Recovery Support area of our website.
You can speed up the recovery process by reducing your stress, practicing relaxed breathing, increasing your rest and relaxation, and not worrying about this symptom. Sure, anxiety chronic pain can be bothersome, and even debilitating. But again, when your body has fully recovered from being overly stressed, this symptom will completely disappear. Therefore, worrying about anxiety chronic pain is pointless…and can even cause it to persist since worry creates anxiety, and anxiety stresses the body.
For a more detailed explanation about all anxiety symptoms, why symptoms can persist long after the stress response has ended, common barriers to recovery and symptom elimination, and more recovery strategies and tips, we have many chapters that address this information in the Recovery Support area of our website.
The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - we call these core causes the underlying factors of anxiety - a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.
For more information about our Anxiety Therapy, Coaching, Counseling option; our Available Anxiety Therapists; to Book An Appointment with one of our anxiety therapists; common Symptoms of Anxiety; Anxiety Attack Symptoms; anxiety Recovery Support area; common Anxiety Myths; and our Anxiety 101 section; or click on the appropriate graphic below:
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Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated March 22, 2017.