muscle tension

Muscle Tension Survival Guide: How to Ditch an Annoying Anxiety Symptom

Muscle tension is one of the most common physical ailments that people face.

I’m sure you know the feeling.  Your muscles feel as hard as oak when you’re dealing with stress.

Your back stiffens.

Or your leg feels like you’re dragging a log.

Does that sound familiar?  According to a 2017 study on the effects of stress, 30% of people in stressful situations experience some form of muscle tension.  They say that the biggest sources of stress and anxiety are the following:

  • Future of our nation
  • Money
  • Work
  • Political climate
  • Violence/crime

Um, hi, 2020.  I see you there.

muscle tension

So many of us are worried about all of the above.  What is going to happen at the next election? What am I going to do if the economy gets worse? Why do people hate each other so much?

Sometimes it is too much to take and your body starts to take your anxiety on in a physical way.

That’s what inspired me to create this series about the physical symptoms of anxiety and depression.  You can check out the previous installments here:

11 physical symptoms for anxiety and depression that you need to be aware of

Can depression cause fatigue? Find out the truth about a common symptom

Can depression cause physical pain? Find out the truth about a common symptom

Here is a sneak peek at the next installment-

Eye Health and Depression: Find out the truth about a common symptom!

Keep reading to find out what causes muscle tension, and 3 steps you can take to feel better soon.

This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you click a link and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. See my Privacy and Affiliate Disclaimer pages for more info.

Also, I am not a doctor or mental health professional. Just someone who has lived with anxiety for many years who is passionate about sharing her experiences and tips for success. If you are in crisis call your doctor, then click here for some good mental health resources.

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What is the cause of muscle tension from anxiety?

Verywell Mind says that, “Experiencing frequent feelings of fear, worry, and anxiety can impact the body by contributing to muscle pain and tightness. Muscle tension is a common problem for people with panic disorder. Typically, muscles become tense during a panic attack and can cause feelings of stiffness throughout the body, long after the attack has subsided.”

But how does it actually happen? Why do you feel muscle tension from anxiety?

Well, according to Calm Clinic, when you are anxious that affects your fight or flight system (sympathetic nervous system).  We’ve all felt that at one point or another.  It’s almost hard to describe, but if you have ever dealt with anxiety, you know what I’m talking about.

Heart racing.

Throat closing up.

Feeling like you need to escape.

When the fight or flight system is activated, your muscles naturally contract, causing the tension that you feel.  For some this may lead to aches and pains.  

Interesting, huh?  Now you know that it’s not just your imagination.  Your body is actually tensing up when you’re anxious.

Keep reading to find out 3 proven ways to relieve muscle tension in little time.

3 steps for easing aches and stiffness

I am no stranger to aches and stiffness.  When my youngest was about 5 months old, I started to have a lot of muscle related issues including debilitating sciatica.  It was so bad that if I had to walk up the stairs, I would need to lie down, almost in tears.

My primary care physician was no help, an old buzzard about 10 years past due for retirement.  He said to take a Tylenol when it hurt.


muscle tension from anxiety

But what was actually causing it? I was desperate for a solution, not just symptom management techniques.  That’s so annoying for those that deal with chronic illness and pain, when doctors just toss obvious remedies at them, and don’t try to find out the root cause.

Fast forward some time later and I ended up in physical therapy.  That was where I found some true relief.  They told me some stretches and strength exercises that could help.  Two and a half years later, I am about 95% sciatica free.

I still get muscle tension from anxiety sometimes, and I know how awful these things are.  So I wanted to share some common methods of alleviating it so that you can have a better quality of life.

Go get a massage.

This is one of the oldest tricks in the book.  According to Gaiam, it dates back to the 4th century BC.  They write:

“There are many types of massage to choose from. Swedish massage is a gentle touch massage that is good for lighter forms of tension, while deep-tissue massage is effective in addressing deeper muscle tension. Either of these forms of massage will be helpful and a great way to relieve muscle tension, tension headaches, and neck stiffness. Massage therapists in your area can be found online or through a recommendation from a local doctor, chiropractor, or physical therapist.”

How to Relieve Muscle Tension

You could also google ways to have your partner or a friend massage you, but I think things like this are often better left to professionals.  

Give yoga a try.

Yoga is a free way to get some relief from muscle tension that anyone can try.  There is something for everyone, at any level.  Yoga and deep stretching can not only relieve the physical tension you are feeling, but it can help the anxiety that’s at its root.

Here are some easy poses you can try that aren’t super challenging:

  • Downward dog
  • Lunge
  • Child’s pose
  • Bow pose
  • Fish pose
  • Seated twist

Try it for 5-10 minutes a day.  If you think you will forget, set a reminder on your phone to do it first thing.

Take a hot bath.

This is my number one life hack.  For everything.  Seriously, I’m convinced that a hot bath solves all of life’s problems.  

Okay, maybe it won’t cure your anxiety. Nothing has been proven to be a cure.  But hot baths are amazing and inexpensive tools for stress relief, relaxation, and tension relief.

One way to make the most out of your bath is using epsom salts.  They are an extra boost of tension relief, and also detox the crud from your body.

epsom salt, muscle tension
Epsoak Epsom Salt- Click here to buy some!epsom salt, muscle tension

Mind over matter technique

Lots of you might be rolling your eyes right now.  And that’s okay.  This technique can work for everyone, but I understand that it’s not every single person’s jam.  

But I think there is a lot of power in mastering control over your thoughts.  Doing that can help you distract yourself from physical discomfort, and also be a balm for your anxiety.

Negative thoughts have so many effects on your body.  Among other things, they make you more stressed than you were before, can weaken your immune system, and can also wreak other physical havoc.

Check out this video about the effects of negative thinking I created:

Did that inspire you to think more positively?  

Chronic stiffness is no fun, but it can be manageable.

I understand how debilitating stiffness and pain can be.  It can completely take over your life, and make you feel helpless.  I’ve lived with it for a long time, but luckily I’ve found some ways to manage.

Which one of the tips resonate with you the most?  Did I leave any ideas out?  Let me know in the comments, and make sure you share this post with a friend who needs it.

muscle tension

Try out these muscle tension survival tips, and feel better quickly!

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Related posts for anxiety relief:

Positivity and negativity: How to challenge negative thought patterns

What self care really is?

Ideas for self care

3 self care tips that will get you through lockdown