Mental and Physical Health: What’s the Connection?

You may think of your physical health as separate from your mental health. But the two are closely connected. (If you’ve ever been nervous and felt butterflies in your stomach, or a racing heart, you know this.) It may not be obvious, but this connection is particularly important in muscle and joint conditions. 

People living with chronic muscle or joint pain are five times more likely to also experience anxiety and depression than those without pain. Chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia or arthritis, can lead to feelings of frustration and hopelessness, which impact mental health. 

“Pain alters everything — your mood, sleep, how you engage with other people,” says Samantha Stewart, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at Hinge Health. It’s more challenging to be active, which further affects muscle and joint pain. And stress (mental and physical) can lead to muscle tension and tightness. 

Zooming Out

It’s no surprise that the impact of stress and mental health extends beyond just musculoskeletal pain. Mental health issues can affect nutrition, substance use, and ability to exercise, which influence chronic illnesses like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity. 

Breaking the Cycle

It can be overwhelming to get caught in a cycle where pain affects your mental health, which further affects pain. There are ways to break this cycle by addressing mental and physical health simultaneously. And it starts with movement. 

Movement Is Medicine

You’ve heard us say that movement is medicine for joint and muscle pain. But engaging in physical activity also improves mental health by reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, enhancing mood, and increasing overall well-being. 

Starting a movement habit isn’t always easy, and we know mental health issues can make it even more challenging. But even small amounts of physical activity can have profound benefits on mental health. Finding the right type and intensity of exercise, and having social support, is key. For additional support, reach out to your health coach or physical therapist using the My Care tab in your app.

Key Takeaways 

  1. Persistent pain can contribute to mental health challenges. 

  2. Mental health disorders can worsen pain symptoms. 

  3. Movement helps to address mental and physical health simultaneously. 


  1. De La Rosa, J. S., Brady, B. R., Ibrahim, M. M., Herder, K. E., Wallace, J. S., Padilla, A. R., & Vanderah, T. W. (2022). Co-occurrence of chronic pain and anxiety/depression symptoms in U.S. adults: prevalence, functional impacts, and opportunities. PAIN, 165(3), 666–673. doi:10.1097/j.pain.0000000000003056

  2. Aylett, E., Small, N., & Bower, P. (2018). Exercise in the treatment of clinical anxiety in general practice – a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Health Services Research, 18(1). doi:10.1186/s12913-018-3313-5

  3. Noetel, M., Sanders, T., Gallardo-Gómez, D., Taylor, P., Cruz, B. del P., Hoek, D. van den, Smith, J. J., Mahoney, J., Spathis, J., Moresi, M., Pagano, R., Pagano, L., Vasconcellos, R., Arnott, H., Varley, B., Parker, P., Biddle, S., & Lonsdale, C. (2024). Effect of exercise for depression: systematic review and network meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ, 384(8417), e075847. doi:10.1136/bmj-2023-075847