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Anxiety and Muscle tension

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by fredb, Aug 28, 2020.

  1. fredb

    fredb Peer Supporter

    Having had upper back pain and other upper back sensations for over two years this is my very simplistic take on this. I believe all this Pain in your back, feet, legs and arms etc is due to chronic/persistent muscle tension, driven by anxiety ( call it fear if you wish). You may not feel anxious all the time, but it is your current anxiety that starts the muscle tension and then it becomes habitual for the muscles to remain tense, causing pain, tightness, tingling and other sensations.
    I have tested this time and time again by noticing the difference and reduction in symptoms if I take a lorazipam (Ativan) tablet or to a lesser degree, if I consume alcohol. Both I believe are muscle relaxers? I know other TMS conditions may not be associated with voluntary muscle groups, I am convinced muscles tension is involved in all cases. Any thoughts on the anxiety/ muscle tension as a simplistic view of what causes TMS symptoms?
    plum likes this.
  2. Dorado

    Dorado Beloved Grand Eagle

    I wouldn’t get too hung up on this, although it does help some people who wish to understand the exact process as it may make the idea of healing feel more actionable and less abstract.

    TMS/the mind-body connection is simply fight-or-flight mode, which can be triggered by any heightened emotion. This can certainly lead to tense muscles, constricted blood vessels, rewiring in the brain (neuroplasticity), overactive mast cells and histamine, etc. All of which is reversible. Dr. John Sarno was initially focused on tension in the muscles (Tension Myositis Syndrome), but came to realize that any system in the body can be affected (The Mind-Body Syndrome).

    Alcohol may relax your muscles or perhaps it’s just giving you a temporary buzz and easing your emotions. For me, it increased my symptoms and led to believe I had alcoholic neuropathy (spoiler: I do not); per multiple neurologists, my sympathetic nervous system was so overactive, it was treating everything like a threat. We’re all different and our bodies respond to the mind-body syndrome and external agents differently.

    Earlier this year I felt stressed out (probably due to a work deadline) and developed a painful sensation just below my stomach. If I recall correctly, a friend hosted an event that night and I drank maybe two standard glasses of wine. The pain was eliminated. Very different response to alcohol than I’d had before. My body just moved on.

    This is why I don’t focus very much on these details and instead work on managing emotions and calming my nerves down.
    TG957, Idearealist and plum like this.
  3. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    Sweetheart, I don’t think it’s a simplistic view. I think that is exactly what TMS is. As @Dorado mentions, originally the T in TMS stood for tension.

    You’re so close to the penny dropping. The day will come when you get it and with that epiphany you’ll be fast-tracking to healing.
    BloodMoon, TG957 and MWsunin12 like this.
  4. jamejamesjames1

    jamejamesjames1 Peer Supporter


    I have the same reaction w attivan. Pain typically goes way way down. I only need to take half a .5mg tablet to have an effect.

    I'm afraid of becoming dependant or addicted so I only take it if in dire straights. I try for no more than two .5mg pills a week but maybe I'm over conservative.

    How often do you take it?
  5. jamejamesjames1

    jamejamesjames1 Peer Supporter

    This also makes me remember a technique called progressive muscle relaxation. Perhaps I'll try it again
  6. TG957

    TG957 Beloved Grand Eagle

    I had a full-blown officially diagnosed dystonia, which is involuntary contractions of the muscles. I fully recovered by focusing on my anxiety and negative emotions. I believe that two are connected. My advice is to get off the meds as soon as you can safely do it. I was in a way lucky that Xanax stopped working for me, so I was forced to look for other ways of dealing with anxiety. Claire Weekes turned out to work much better than Xanax :).
    linnyc87, plum and Lizzy like this.
  7. jamejamesjames1

    jamejamesjames1 Peer Supporter


    Dealing with negative emotions..as I'm just feeling and acknowledging them? Or reframing thought patterns so you didn't have as many in the first place?

    I think this is my hold up cause I don't feel any negative emotions except anxiety. If I try hard I can feel some out I'm not sure if I'm forcing emotions that don't exist or what. If you try hard enough you can will yourself to get mad or sad about anything. I am at a place where most things don't appear to bother me but combination of symptoms and TMS blogs had me thinking I must be repressing and in fact these thi he do bother me ?
  8. jamejamesjames1

    jamejamesjames1 Peer Supporter


    I think my cpps pain stems primarily from anxiety like you. I've had ten years of bad anxiety and panic attacks. When my daughter was born the intensity grew for a year before these pains started. Can never pinpoint why I'm so incredibly anxious.

    Anyway, usually when the pain is around my anxiety is much lower (except sometimes I'll have some catastrophic thoughts and freak out and have both). When the pain feels a little better sometimes I do to or sometimes that's when anxiety hits again.

    So it feels like my anxiety just sits in my pelvis muscles. But it's so hard to process especially when then I don't feel anxious many times (or have clear triggers)
  9. fredb

    fredb Peer Supporter

    Thank Dorado for giving more detail and expanding on my thoughts on muscle tension/anxiety and TMS. Also a big thank you to plum for your kind and always thoughtful observations. You always say the right things to bring comfort to those who need it. James, like you I only have Ativan for occasional use, but in the UK the smallest dose I believe is 1mg, so I usually cut it in half. It would be interesting to hear other views on this thread?
    plum likes this.
  10. TG957

    TG957 Beloved Grand Eagle

    James, negative emotions are our normal reactions to the events of life. Unfortunately, they are unpleasant, so we subconsciously try to push them away so we would not feel them. Trying not to have as many negative emotions means repressing them. We need to acknowledge them consciously and understand clearly that we are feeling them. Then we need to let them run their course in our bodies. Each of the emotions we feel is in fact a flow of specific hormones in our bloodstream, so our bodies need to dispose of them much like they dispose of alcohol or toxins. Anger, for example, if not handled properly, can lead to some crazy actions that we would not take under normal circumstances. To dispose of anger, an active strenuous exercise would probably be the best, to wear it out and put it to rest - unless you have spare dishes that you would rather smash into pieces :=). You get the idea, right?

    It was hard for me to get out of habitual suppression of emotions and start noticing them when they appeared. I find anxiety and fear very difficult to handle, but I use sitting meditation and other meditative activities like running, yoga or fast walk very helpful in releasing those emotions. I used to use xanax for anxiety in the past, but I discovered that a concerted, focused mental effort can work much better and even faster than medication.

    Does this answer your question?
    linnyc87, Amber and plum like this.

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