If you’ve ever experienced a pain in your left arm, you know just how scary it can be – especially if you have anxiety.
Even if you’re not a particularly anxious person, at some point, your mind has probably wandered over to the worst-case scenario.
Most of us associate left arm pain with heart attacks. Pain in the left arm can be one of the first symptoms of a heart attack, but it’s also a common symptom of anxiety, too.
If you have health anxiety, you may even start to notice your pain becoming more severe, the more you worry. It’s a slippery slope.
But why does anxiety cause pain in the left arm, and when should you worry? Let’s take a closer look at the links between the two, and how you can treat it.
Does Anxiety Cause Arm Pain?
Yes, arm pain is a common symptom of anxiety. So, before you start catastrophising about that niggling pain in your left arm, take a moment to breathe deeply, and pay attention to your body.
Are you anxious? How anxious are you? Are you experiencing any other physical symptoms?
One of the most frustrating things about anxiety is that it makes you more in tune with your body. On the surface, this may sound like a good thing.
However, if you’re noticing every single feeling, no matter how minor, you’re likely to worry even more, and convince yourself that something bad is happening (or going to happen) when in reality, you’re fine.
Anxiety doesn’t just affect the mind, it also impacts the body, too. Anxiety is known to cause gastrointestinal issues, muscle tension, and physical pain. These symptoms usually coincide with panic attacks or intense periods of stress.
Why Does Anxiety Cause Arm Pain?
There are a few reasons why anxiety may cause arm pain. Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety-induced arm pain:
When we panic, we often start to hyperventilate. Hyperventilation is when we start to breathe rapidly or deeply (sometimes called over-breathing), and it can leave you feeling breathless and even more anxious.
Hyperventilation can also cause other physical symptoms such as a tight chest and arm pain. In other words, it can mimic the symptoms of angina or a heart attack.
Hyperventilation can cause the blood vessels in the body to constrict, which causes these symptoms, and can also lead to sharp pains that travel down the arm.
Your arm pain may also be the result of anxiety-induced muscle tension. Anxiety is known to cause (see also: Can Anxiety Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes?)muscle tension in the shoulders, back, arms and even neck, and the pressure from the tension can cause varied levels of pain and discomfort.
Your arm pain may even become more pronounced depending on which position you’re sitting or standing in.
Our brains are incredibly powerful. So powerful that they can convince us we’re feeling things that we actually aren’t.
This is called psychosomatic pain. If your mind is on high alert and looking for issues in your body, it can start to create physical symptoms such as pain.
There’s a chance that your arm pain may be psychosomatic, especially if you’re already worrying about things like chest pain or heart attacks.
Over-Sensitivity To Natural Pain
As if anxiety didn’t cause enough issues already, it can also heighten your senses and make you more overly sensitive to natural pain. So, if you’ve slept in a weird position, over-exercised or bruised your arm, the pain may be heightened by your anxiety.
In these cases, it helps to distract your mind and focus on external stimuli rather than internal feelings. This can eliminate most of your symptoms.
Treatment For Anxiety Arm Pain
If your arm pain is caused by anxiety, there’s no reason to be overly concerned. Anxiety pains cannot cause any long-term damage to your arm, and if you can get your anxiety levels under control, you’ll soon find that the pain will dissipate.
Here are a few quick, simple, and effective ways to treat arm pain caused by anxiety:
- Move and massage the arm
- Take painkillers
- Distract yourself from the pain
Remember: arm pain caused by anxiety (see also: Can Hormones Cause Anxiety?)does not directly affect the arm.
The most effective way to treat your symptoms is by treating anxiety. You may benefit from distraction techniques, deep breathing, and better sleep quality.
If your arm pain is a recurring issue that exists alongside your anxiety, it may be beneficial to seek a therapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help identify your patterns of thinking and behaviour and start to question them.
Anti-anxiety medication can also be beneficial, especially when taken alongside therapy.
If your doctor suggests taking medication to manage your symptoms, you may be offered something like:
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): These tablets work by making more serotonin available in the body, and improving mood
- Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines are a type of sedative medication, and they’re often used to slow down the functioning of the brain. They’re commonly used to treat anxiety, and they can be used to treat muscular tension, too
- Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs): These medications can help increase the amount of serotonin and norepinephrine in the body, improve your mood, and reduce anxiety levels
If your arm pain is caused by anxiety, it’s usually nothing to worry about.
However, if your arm pain comes on suddenly, is severe, or is accompanied by a type of tight, squeezing pressure in the chest, you should seek emergency treatment.
You should also see a doctor if you have trouble moving your arm normally, your arm hurts more with movement, or you cannot turn your arm easily from palm up to palm down.
Anxiety can often cause unpleasant physical symptoms, including left arm pain. If your arm pain is caused by underlying anxiety, (see also: Can Anxiety Cause Jaw Pain?)you may be offered therapy or medication to help manage your symptoms, especially if the issue is recurring.
In the short term, you may benefit from distraction techniques such as breathing exercises. If in doubt, talk to your doctor for more information.