Neck Tension Anxiety Symptoms
Neck tension symptom description:
Your neck, especially the back of your neck, feels tense, tight, stiff, sore, and even very painful. Some people describe this symptom as a persistent and unrelenting tension and soreness in the back of the neck.
Others describe it as a pressure, tension, stiffness, or soreness in the neck and shoulder area, with radiating pain to the back of the head. Some people experience this symptom with a head pressure, headaches, and a ‘tight band around the head’ feeling.
Many people who experience this symptom try to "crack" their necks or roll their necks in hopes that it will release the tension, stiffness, and soreness.
This tension can appear in the neck only, and/or in the shoulders and back of the head.
This symptom can come and go sporadically, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you may have neck tension once in a while and not that often, or feel it all the time.
This symptom may precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur all by itself.
Neck tension can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur ‘out of the blue’ and for no apparent reason.
This symptom can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves, where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.
This symptom can change from day to day, and/or from moment to moment.
All of the above combinations and variations are common.
Causes for anxiety related neck tension
Behaving in an anxious manner causes the stress response to activate. The stress response is designed to bring about specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes that enhance the body’s ability to deal with danger - to either fight with or flee from it. This is the reason the stress response is often referred to as the fight or flight response.
A part of the stress response changes includes causing the body’s muscles to tighten in an attempt to protect the body from harm (tight muscles are more resilient to damage). This muscle tightening effect can affect any muscle or muscle group in the body, including the muscles in the neck and back of the head.
Many anxious and stressed people experience neck tension due to the stress that being anxious and/or stressed causes. Neck tension is a common indication of stress, including the stress being anxious causes.
How to eliminate anxiety caused neck tension
When this feeling is caused by apprehensive behavior and the accompanying stress response changes, calming yourself down will bring an end to the stress response and its changes. As your body recovers from the active stress response, this feeling should subside and you should return to your normal self. Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
When this feeling is caused by persistent stress, eliminating your body’s overly stressed state will cause the cessation of muscle tension related symptoms, including this one.
Nevertheless, when the body has fully calmed down and recovered, neck tension should completely subside. Therefore, this symptom needn’t be a cause for concern.
You can speed up the recovery process by reducing your stress, practicing relaxed breathing, increasing your rest and relaxation, and not worrying about this feeling. Sure, neck tension can be unsettling and even bothersome. But again, when your body has recovered from the stress response and/or sustained stress, this symptom will completely disappear.
For a more detailed explanation about anxiety symptoms including this one, why symptoms can persist long after the stress response has ended, common barriers to recovery and symptom elimination, and more recovery strategies and tips, we have many chapters that address this information in the Recovery Support area of our website.
You can find out more information about our Recovery Support area here.
There are some short-term remedies, as well. For example, anything that relaxes and reduces the body’s stress will help alleviate muscle tension symptoms, including:
- Doing a deep relaxation technique, such as meditation
- Doing mild stretching exercises
- Mild to moderate exercise (exercise is an effective stress reducer)
- Having a massage
- Having a warm bath
- A heating pad on the back of the neck (heat reduces muscle tension)
- Sore muscle ointment
- Pain relievers
And so on.
Again, for more detailed information about this symptom, see Chapter 9 in the Recovery Support area of our website.
The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder coach, counselor, or therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.
For more information about our Anxiety Counseling option; our Available Anxiety Therapists; to Book An Appointment with one of our anxiety therapists; common Anxiety Signs and Symptoms; common Anxiety Attack Symptoms; the symptoms of panic attack disorder; anxiety Recovery Support area; information about Anxiety; and our Anxiety 101 section; or click on the appropriate link or graphic below:
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Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated January 1, 2019.