Does Anxiety Cause Joint Pain?

Although it may seem that joint pain should naturally result from purely physical ailments such as arthritis or other conditions, there's significant evidence that joint pain can be caused or exacerbated by mental distress.

Specifically, anxiety disorders have been targeted as the culprit in many cases of joint pain, both anecdotally by arthritis sufferers and by scientists officially studying the phenomenon.

A team of scientists at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, found that having an anxiety disorder was significantly linked with many physical problems including arthritis, a common cause of joint pain. Not only that, people with physical problems who also suffer from anxiety find that their physical disabilities often are more severe and lead to a lower quality of life than people who aren't anxious.

Among those without a medical or scientific degree, there's plenty of support for the theory that feeling tense and anxious can cause or worsen joint pain. Message boards are rife with people who swear that when they are feeling uptight they experience much more pain. Some attribute their increased joint pain to the fact that anxiety makes them walk around with tighter muscles than normal. Others feel that an overload of adrenaline in their system causes lactic acid build-up that damages their joints and muscles. Still, others blame anxiety-fueled lack of sleep for excessive joint pain. For many, the mind and body are clearly intertwined.

But whatever the specific pathways are that lead to a connection between anxiety and joint pain, one thing is clear: If emotional tension can have a negative affect on the joints, then emotional relaxation should reverse the processes that cause pain.

Here are some proven ways to reduce anxiety:

  • Take a deep breath, filling your entire stomach area with air. Exhale all the air and repeat several times.
  • Do yoga. A recent study found that yoga beats walking when it comes to improving mood and calming tense nerves.
  • Get a massage. This calming treatment can greatly lessen anxiety.
  • Take anti-anxiety medication. If mental and physical techniques are failing to quell your nerves, talk to your doctor about trying an anti-anxiety drug.


National Institutes of Health,

Jitender, Sareen, Frank Jacobi, Brian J.Cox, Shay-Lee Belik, Ian Clara, and Murray B. Stein. "Disability and Poor Quality of Life Associated With Comorbid Anxiety Disorders and Physical Conditions." Archives of Internal Medicine 166(19) (2006): 2109-2116. Print.