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Is Stress Causing Your Body Aches and Pains?


May 13, 2020 | Published by

If you find yourself feeling like you’re suffering through soreness, headaches, and tension while experiencing additional stress or anxiety, you’re not alone.1

Seven out of ten adults in the United States say they experience stress or anxiety daily, and most say it interferes at least moderately with their lives, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.As this stress becomes more frequent and long-term, it can affect our physical health.

In small doses, stress can improve alertness and sharpen our senses, but chronic stress can lead to health issues such as gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune disease.2

Some physical symptoms of stress and anxiety include3:

  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle aches and/or tension
  • Heart palpitations
  • Fatigue, headaches, and/or stomachaches
  • Rapid breathing (hyperventilation)
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sweating
  • Stomachache
  • Dizziness
  • Cold or sweaty hands and feet

Let’s focus on the muscle aches and tension side of stress. According to Jay Winner, M.D., author of Stress Management Made Simple, “When stressed, your body produces hormones that increase muscle tension and pain sensitivity.”4

Here are some common areas pain and tension caused by stress occurs.4

 Neck and shoulders

Many types of work, from sitting at a desk all day to lugging around heavy equipment, can cause pain that starts at your neck and radiates across your shoulders. If you work a physically intensive job, it may be necessary to lighten your load, while individuals working jobs that require a lot of sitting should be sure to practice proper posture, which can lower neck and should pain by as much as 49 percent.4

Lower back

An often-overlooked reason for lower back pain is sitting in traffic. In addition to possibly not applying proper sitting techniques, it’s likely that your body tenses up under the stress. Drivers who use lumbar support are almost half as likely to suffer from lower back issues as ones who don’t.4


Abdominal cramps, constipation, and diarrhea can all be side effects of excess stress. One way to avoid stress-related stomach issues is to eat smaller portions of healthy foods at regular intervals and drink plenty of water (6-8 glasses a day). There are also dietary supplements specifically for digestion that can be helpful.

Do any of those pain areas resonate with you? Here are some tips to help alleviate body aches and pains triggered by stress.

Pinpoint stressors

Try writing in a journal and see if you recognize any stress patterns. Try and find solutions or ways to reduce your stress if you see common traps.2

Maintain a healthy diet

While eating healthy can greatly reduce stress, it can also reduce inflammation. Some heathy foods that can reduce inflammation include berries, broccoli, green tea, turmeric, and dark chocolate.4

 Keep active

Maintaining an active lifestyle is one of the most important things you can do to help alleviate stress and the physical pain it can cause.2 Since the idea of working out can be stressful to individuals suffering from adrenal insufficiencies, it’s important to start low and go slow.

Decrease alcohol and caffeine intake

Sometimes lifestyle changes are necessary to achieve a goal of living with less stress. Caffeine can lead to sleep disturbances, digestive issues, and nutritional deficiencies, all of which can add additional stress to your life. Both alcohol and caffeine can also intensify joint pain.2

Seek help

Stress alone can be overwhelming. When combined with aches and pains, it can be unbearable. Consider asking for help if you need it. This can be anything from moving to just needing someone to talk to.2 If things become too overwhelming or painful, be sure to see a healthcare professional as soon as possible.


  1. Why Does Stress and Anxiety Cause Joint Pain? Towson Orthopaedic Associates.
  2. Rahimah, Z et. al. Pain in Times of Stress. National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  3. Is Stress Making Your Body Ache?. Graham, J. Redbook.
  4. Spritzler, F. The 13 Most Anti-Inflammatory Foods You Can Eat. Healthline .

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