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What Does Anxiety Neck Pain Feel Like?

Neck pain is an extremely common condition that most people will experience at some point in their lives. While there are many potential causes of neck pain, one overlooked source is anxiety. Anxiety can manifest itself in a variety of physical symptoms, including debilitating neck and shoulder pain. Read on to learn more about the connection between anxiety and neck pain, and what anxiety neck pain feels like.

The feeling of neck pain caused by anxiety can vary from person to person. However, there are some common themes. People often describe anxiety neck pain as starting at the base of the skull and radiating downwards. There is often a feeling of muscle tightness or spasms, causing stiffness in the neck that limits mobility and range of motion. Turning the head from side to side may be difficult. The pain may be dull and achy or sharp and piercing. In some cases, it may come and go, while for others it is persistent.

In addition to pain, those experiencing anxiety neck pain may notice other physical symptoms like muscle tension or soreness around the neck and shoulders. There may be tenderness or “knots” when pressure is applied to the muscles in these areas. Headaches frequently accompany anxiety-related neck pain as well. The headaches may start as tension headaches at the base of the skull and spread.

Anxiety neck pain often gets worse when stress levels are high. The pain can range from mildly annoying to completely debilitating, making it difficult to focus on daily activities. Simple tasks like looking down at a phone or computer screen may aggravate the pain. Many people report tossing and turning in bed trying to get comfortable, or being unable to find a tolerable sleeping position due to neck pain and stiffness.

The pain may be symmetrical, affecting both sides of the neck equally. Or in some cases, it manifests more severely on one side or the other. Anxiety sufferers often cradle or rub the sides of their neck in an attempt to relieve pain and tension. They may use heat, ice, massage, stretches, and over-the-counter analgesics to try to find relief.

The neck muscles, including the trapezius, sternocleidomastoid, and cervical paraspinal muscles, are common areas affected by anxiety neck pain. When the body feels anxious, the muscles in the neck and shoulders often tense up. They may spasm or develop trigger points. This persistent muscle tension can lead to pain, limited mobility, and headaches.

The neck pain can also create a feedback loop, where the physical symptoms increase anxiety, which further exacerbates the pain. Anxiety sufferers often feel trapped in this vicious cycle. The neck pain and stiffness serve as a constant physical reminder of their anxiety.

Some people experience discomfort or strain in their jaw as well, from clenching due to stress. This can also radiate up into the neck. Changes in posture like slouching or holding the neck and shoulders rigidly may contribute. Sleep disturbances related to anxiety deprive the neck muscles of the chance to relax and recover, making the pain worse.

In summary, neck pain from anxiety can be extremely variable but often includes muscle tension and spasms, limited mobility, headaches that start at the base of the skull, and pain ranging from dull to sharp. The pain may come and go or persist chronically. Treating the underlying anxiety, improving sleep, and using relaxation techniques may help alleviate this troublesome symptom.