What Does Anxiety Neck Pain Feel Like?

Anxiety is a common condition that can cause many different symptoms, including neck pain. Neck pain caused by anxiety often feels tense and tight, and it may come and go. Here is more information on what anxiety neck pain feels like and why it occurs.

Where Is the Pain Located?

Anxiety neck pain is most commonly felt at the back of the neck and at the base of the skull. However, it can radiate to the shoulders, upper back, and arms as well. Some people describe the pain as feeling like there is a tight band around their neck or constant tension in their neck and shoulder muscles.

The pain often affects both sides of the neck symmetrically. However, some people may experience more pain on one side versus the other. The exact location can vary from person to person.

What Does the Pain Feel Like?

People often describe anxiety neck pain as having a feeling of muscle tightness or tension. It may feel like having a knot in the muscles that won’t go away. The neck muscles may feel stiff, tight, and inflexible.

The pain can range from mild to more severe. At its worst, the neck pain may feel like throbbing, stabbing, or burning. More often though, it is an aching, stiff feeling. The pain can come and go throughout the day. Many people with anxiety experience worsening neck pain when their anxiety spikes.

In some cases, the pain is a dull ache or stiffness that persists throughout the day. In other cases, it comes on suddenly and intensely when feeling acutely anxious. Oftentimes, rubbing or massaging the neck muscles provides temporary relief. But the pain tends to return once the massage stops.

What Causes It?

Anxiety neck pain is caused by the tightening of muscles in the neck and shoulders in response to stress. When the body feels anxious, the muscles tense up. The neck is especially prone to tension since anxiety causes people to hold their neck and shoulders in a rigid, hunched position.

Prolonged muscle tension strains the neck muscles, resulting in pain. Things like poor posture, staring down at phones, and stress only further tense the muscles up. People with anxiety may also unconsciously clench their jaw or grind their teeth, which adds strain to the neck.

The neck pain can then, in turn, cause more anxiety, resulting in a vicious cycle. The pain serves as a constant physical reminder of the anxiety.

Finding Relief

Treating the underlying anxiety is key to relieving anxiety neck pain. Practices like therapy, meditation, medication, and exercise can help reduce anxiety levels.

Regular neck stretches and massages can provide some relief as well. But the pain may come back without tackling the anxiety first. Using good posture and ergonomics can also take some strain off the neck muscles. Hot or cold compresses can temporarily help soothe muscle tension when it flares up. Over-the-counter pain medication can reduce some of the discomfort in the meantime as well.

If neck pain from anxiety persists, it’s a good idea to see a doctor to rule out other potential causes. But in most cases, the neck pain stems from anxiety and muscle tension. Addressing the anxiety and learning to control stress can help minimize painful neck tension.