Can anxiety cause muscle pain?
To what extent can pain arise from having high anxiety? Let's look at it.
The connection between mind and body is not as mystical as many might think. In the same way that when we hurt somewhere we may be angry or sad because of it, the inverse relationship also exists.
Our emotional state influences the severity and amount of physical symptoms we may manifest, whether or not they are related to an actual physical illness. Depression, stress and especially anxiety can worsen our physical health.
Of all the ailments we may feel, can anxiety cause Muscle aches and pains? Below we will see the answer.
Can high levels of anxiety lead to muscle aches and pains?
It is known that the mind and body are connected in a bidirectional way. Mental and physical health influence each other and, when one is altered, it is a matter of time before the other is equally impaired, even if we are not aware of it. For example, when we break a leg, the pain will produce sadness, nervousness and anger and, even if we already have it in plaster, we will inevitably feel frustrated at not being able to walk as usual for a long time.
The inverse relationship also exists. If our state of mind is altered, our physical health will sooner or later be impaired.. If we are depressed or worried our physical health will suffer, mainly by weakening the immune system making us more prone to fall ill. Having a low state of mind also reduces our body's ability to respond to pathogens.
But while depression is a relatively common problem, it is not as common as anxiety. Anxiety can be defined as a state of mind in which the person experiences high anxiety, intense excitement and extreme insecurity.. It is a response mechanism of the organism to a situation perceived as dangerous for both physical and mental integrity, preparing us to emit a behavior of flight or fight.
Anxiety is an innate response that we cannot get rid of, nor should we pathologize it as soon as it appears. Even so, at high levels it induces problems in the organism, becoming a pathology damaging both our mental and physical health. In anxiety disorders this emotion, far from activating us to face a threat that can harm us, becomes a threat in itself.
Psychosomatization, anxiety and muscular pains
Psychosomatic diseases are those physical ailments whose cause is related to a psychological problem. It is believed that almost 12% of the European population suffers from this type of discomfort. and it has been hypothesized that a quarter of people presenting to primary care services with muscular pain and other physical ailments, their real problem is in the mind. Given how common anxiety is, it is not surprising that it is the main psychological problem that explains these cases.
A person is considered to be suffering from somatization when he or she has one or more physical symptoms and, after undergoing a medical examination, these symptoms cannot be explained by a known medical pathology or, if they are, the symptoms and their consequences are too severe compared to a typical picture of that disease. The severity of the symptoms and the uncertainty of not knowing where they come from cause great discomfort in different areas of your life.
Muscle aches and pains are very common problems in the population.. In most of the cases in which the cause is psychological, the affected persons visit the medical services several times. Due to the saturation of medical services and the difficulty to diagnose first time the muscular pain caused by anxiety, professionals prescribe painkillers, focusing only on the physical symptoms of the disease.
When we say that muscular pains may be caused by anxiety, we are not saying that the person necessarily has a childhood trauma or anxiety disorder, which has produced his physical problem. This person may very well be suffering from anxiety on a daily basis and not even realize it. It is by going deeper into her daily life and analyzing her day-to-day life that we can see that she is subject to small episodes of anxiety which, although apparently harmless and minuscule, when accumulated can psychosomatize into back pain.
On other occasions the doctors, seeing that they cannot find a physical cause for these pains, understand that behind them there may be an anxiety problem and know that they must refer the patient to a psychologist.. The problem is that on many occasions the patients themselves deny having anxiety problems, considering that this is either a misdiagnosis on the part of the doctor or they do not understand very well what relationship there may be between anxiety and muscular pains.
Why don't we go to a psychologist when our back hurts?
This question may seem very obvious at first. Logic makes us think that if we have back pain, it must necessarily be due to a physical problem. Human beings, when faced with a problem, tend to look for solutions that share the same nature, and in the case of physical health this is very evident. If we have muscular problems we look for a doctor specialized in this type of pain, and if we have stomach problems we look for a doctor specialized in the digestive tract.
We like to think that a problem is going to be solved with something that is related to it.. This is why, when going for a medical consultation the professional tells the patient that perhaps his problem is due to a psychological problem the person is somewhat skeptical. "How can a psychologist solve my back pain? Are you sure it is not due to a blow or a bad posture? What does anxiety have to do with my back hurting?" the patient will ask himself very surprised.
Although much progress has been made in getting the population to stop seeing the psychologist as someone who treats people who are "crazy", there are many people who have internalized the idea that to go to one of them is to confirm that they themselves are "sick in the head". Because they are afraid that the psychologist will find something they do not want to know, many of these patients turn to alternative therapies, distrusting doctors and fearing psychologists, who they believe will do little to relieve their incapacitating muscular pains.
Thus, it is not uncommon to find hundreds of people it is not uncommon to find hundreds of people suffering from muscle pain who say they have tried everything.Acupuncture, Bach flowers, homeopathy, osteopathy, reiki, meditation, all kinds of massages... They believe that these practices are less invasive than conventional medicine and more effective than psychology. Conventional medicine and psychology are based on scientifically proven methods, and although their degree of intervention is more invasive than many of these practices, it is also much more effective.
Furthermore, as a criticism of all these practices, in most cases pseudoscientific, is that, although they claim to move away from conventional medicine, they do coincide with it in the fact that they focus on the physical symptoms, not on the psychological problems behind the muscular pains. Conventional medicine does this by prescribing painkillers, anxiolytics or other pain-focused substances, while the aforementioned practices do it with techniques that do absolutely nothing (e.g., reiki).
Nowadays, both behavioral medicine and health psychology know and try to go deeper into the mind-body relationship.. That is why they treat the individual from a broader perspective, taking into account how biological, psychological and social factors influence the appearance, maintenance and resolution of all kinds of physical problems.
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