Health & Wellness, Health Conditions

Do your legs hurt from anxiety? What are its Causes, Symptoms, and Relief?

Anxiety and leg pain

Anxiety, despite being a mental health problem, can have legitimate physical symptoms such as leg pain or stiffness. This is due to the close relationship between our minds and bodies, and it is one of the uncommon physical symptoms that may occur with anxiety. When we feel anxious, our brain releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline into our body. This triggers our body’s natural “fight-or-flight” response, leading to physical symptoms like sweating, shaking, a rapid heartbeat, and tense muscles. In some cases, people may experience muscle tension in their legs, which can cause a mix of anxiety and leg discomfort.

The Causes of Leg Pain Associated with Anxiety

  • Adrenaline
  • Muscle tension
  • Hyperventilation
  • Poor circulation

Symptoms of Leg Pain Associated with Anxiety

  • Aching and soreness
  • Tingling and numbness
  • Cramps and spasms
  • Restlessness and urge to move
  • Weakness and instability


To diagnose anxiety and leg pain, doctors need to rule out other possible causes and identify triggers. To identify it they need to know your complete medical history and then they will do a physical examination of you. They will learn about your symptoms and when they occur to determine if anxiety is the underlying cause of leg pain.

Doctors may also check for problems like arthritis, bruises, or nerve damage that can cause leg pain, and may order imaging or blood tests to check for other conditions. However, these tests usually come back when anxiety is to blame. A doctor may ask you to keep a symptom journal when your legs hurt and what you were doing or feeling at the time. This helps identify potential triggers such as patterns and stressful events.

Sometimes doctors diagnose nerve leg pain through a process of elimination. If they rule out other health problems, anxiety can be assumed to be the cause of vague leg pain symptoms. A psychological evaluation by a mental health professional is important to confirm an anxiety disorder diagnosis. If necessary, your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist for this evaluation.


There are ways to treat leg pain caused by anxiety.

  1. Therapy: A mental health professional’s therapy can assist in addressing the anxiety that lies under the surface. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) addresses maladaptive cognitive processes and offers coping mechanisms. You can learn more about the underlying reasons for anxiety by pursuing other talk therapy modalities, such as psychodynamic therapy. In group therapy, others who are going through similar things can offer support.
  2. Medication: Anti-anxiety medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) may be prescribed. These medications alter brain chemistry to reduce anxiety symptoms. However, medication comes with side effects and risks, so thoroughly discuss options with your doctor.
  3. Exercise: Regular aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, or cycling, can reduce anxiety. Exercise helps release endorphins, which are the body’s natural chemicals that reduce pain and increase pleasure. It also reduces muscle tension, promotes weight loss and improves overall health. However, starting an exercise routine when anxiety is present can be challenging. Therefore, it is recommended to start slowly, with light stretching or walking around the block. These simple activities can help reduce anxiety levels and get started on a healthier lifestyle.
  4. Massage: Massage is a beneficial therapy for relieving leg pain caused by anxiety. Such as Swedish massage or deep tissue massage, which helps to relax the muscles, reduce muscle tension, and stimulate blood circulation. These effects can potentially reduce pain and discomfort in the legs. Also, massage therapy can promote relaxation which reduces stress by relaxing the body, and can indirectly help manage anxiety. It is important to consult with a qualified massage therapist who can assess your individual needs and treat them accordingly.
  5. Stretching: Stretching is important for your leg muscles. Because stretching relieves cramps and tremors. It is recommended to try this stretch in the morning and before bedtime, especially when anxiety symptoms may worsen. Some of the stretches you can do include calf raises, hamstring stretches, hip flexor stretches, and yoga poses like Child’s Pose. Additionally, deep breathing during stretches can be very helpful.
  6. Compression: Wearing compression socks, stockings, or leggings applies gentle pressure to relieve muscle tension. Compression garments improve circulation and can reduce inflammation. Graduated compression is best with more pressure on the ankles than the knees. Wear compression gear throughout the day for constant comfort.

Lifestyle Changes to Help Relieve Leg Pain from Anxiety

  1. Reduce stress: Finding healthy ways to manage stress is important, as anxiety goes hand in hand with high-stress levels. So try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness practices to reduce stress as these techniques can help relax muscles, improve blood circulation, and improve circulation in the legs. Helps to reduce muscle tension which can relieve associated leg pain.
  2. Cut back on stimulants: Caffeine and other stimulants, such as energy drinks, can exacerbate anxiety. It is advisable to restrict coffee, tea, and caffeinated soda intake and drink more water instead.
  3. Limit alcohol: Limiting alcohol intake can help relieve leg pain caused by a variety of factors, including inflammation and muscle tension. Alcohol can harm the body, potentially exacerbating existing conditions and increasing pain sensitivity. This can lead to dehydration and disrupt sleep patterns, both of which can lead to muscle tension and discomfort. By reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption, individuals may experience overall well-being and a possible reduction in leg pain.
  4. Healthy Diet: Maintain a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Adequate nutrition can support overall physical well-being and reduce inflammation, potentially relieving leg pain.
  5. Practice relaxation techniques: It is essential to include progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, visualization, and mindfulness meditation in your daily routine to effectively reduce anxiety levels. The effectiveness of these methods has been demonstrated by science. To get the best outcomes, using applications or audio guidance might also be beneficial. Thus, to reap the maximum benefits of these techniques, be sure to practice them frequently.
  6. Proper Sleep: Proper sleep is important for relieving leg pain. It repairs and rejuvenates the body, relaxes muscles, and reduces inflammation. Good sleep habits like a consistent sleep schedule, comfortable sleep environment, and relaxation techniques can improve sleep quality and reduce leg pain.
  7. Making positive lifestyle changes can significantly improve anxiety levels and reduce associated physical symptoms like leg pain. Be patient and persistent in finding what works best for you. Over time, you can gain control over anxiety rather than letting it control you.

Coping Strategies

  1. Distraction: To help take your mind off the unpleasant sensations in your legs, try distracting yourself with enjoyable activities. You could watch a funny movie, call a friend, read a book, listen to music, work on a hobby you enjoy, or engage in any activity that captures your attention. Even simple things like taking a warm bath, petting your dog or cat, or working on a crossword puzzle can help divert your focus.
  2. Self-Care: Practicing good self-care can significantly reduce anxiety levels. To achieve this, ensure that you maintain a balanced and nutritious diet, exercise regularly, and get adequate sleep. It’s best to avoid consuming too much caffeine as it can worsen anxiety symptoms. Engage in relaxing activities like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises.
  3. Support System: Having a strong support system can be incredibly helpful when dealing with anxiety. You can confide in trusted friends and family members who can understand and empathize with you, and provide reassurance when you’re feeling anxious. Joining a support group, either in-person or online, can also be a good idea as it will allow you to connect with others who are going through similar issues. Speaking with a mental health professional can provide you with helpful coping strategies that are tailored to your specific situation. Remember, you don’t have to face anxiety alone.