Anxiety, a common experience for almost everyone, can have a range of symptoms, from physical to psychological. A common physical symptom of anxiety is muscle tension. Muscle tension due to anxiety is not only physically painful, but it can be mentally distressing as well. This article explores the duration of anxiety-induced muscle tension while also talking about a few remedies to deal with it.
Understanding Anxiety-Related Muscle Tension
Muscle tension is when the body’s muscles feel locked and remain contracted for a long time. When muscles are tense, they may feel tight, rigid, or sore. This can lead to dull or sharp shooting pains in different body parts, including the neck, shoulders, back, and jaw.
Anxiety usually activates the body’s fight-or-flight response; thus, when the body is under stress or anxiety, muscles naturally contract to prepare for any upcoming threat. While this response is essential for dealing with immediate challenges, problems arise when muscle tension becomes chronic or continues for a long time.
Chronic muscle tension can lead to discomfort, pain, and a range of physical symptoms. It may contribute to conditions such as tension headaches, migraines, and muscle pain. In addition, persistent physical pain can increase anxiety over time, creating a cycle that negatively impacts both physical and mental well-being.
Duration of Anxiety-Induced Muscle Tension
Muscle tension from anxiety can last for varied amounts of time, depending on various factors The most influential factors are the type of anxiety and the severity of anxiety symptoms. Usually, muscle tensions caused by short episodes of anxiety tend to disappear once the stressful event is over, as the body is likely to return to a normal state afterwards. However, for people experiencing chronic or generalized anxiety, muscle tension may last for extended periods, ranging from a few minutes to even a few days.
The duration of muscle tension also depends on factors such as a person’s overall physical health and present coping mechanisms. Additionally, any pre-existing conditions, including musculoskeletal issues, may influence the duration and intensity of anxiety-induced muscle tension.
Overcoming Anxiety-Induced Muscle Tension
While the best way to deal with muscle tension due to anxiety is to work with the anxiety by itself, there are techniques one can use to reduce muscle tension. They are:
A hot shower can help relax tensed muscles, resulting in a sense of calm throughout the body. If showering isn’t an option, you can consider applying a hot compress to tense areas. The heat helps increase blood flow to the muscles.
Getting a massage can be an effective way to release muscle tension. Massage can help relax tensed muscles by increasing blood circulation. Additionally, it may also release locked areas.
Physical exercises like gentle stretches or yoga can help reduce stiffness in the muscles. Additionally, yoga has also been proven to be effective in reducing stress and anxiety in the long run. Not only yoga, but mild forms of exercise can also improve anxiety symptoms in the long run.
Breathing exercises have been proven to be effective for stress and anxiety. They can also help with physical symptoms. Try easy techniques like 4-7-8 breathing, box breathing, or mindfulness with breathing. These can be done in any environment, making them even more effective.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a proven technique with physical and mental health benefits. It involves gently tensing each group of muscles in the body, starting from the head and going to the toes, and then slowly releasing the tension.
Muscle tension is a common yet distressing symptom of anxiety. The duration of muscle tension depends on a variety of factors, ranging from the type of anxiety to the physical health of a person. Treating anxiety-induced muscle tension often requires addressing the root cause of anxiety, but hot showers, breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation might help as well. However, if you have been struggling with muscle tension for a long time, it is advisable to consult a medical or mental health professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.
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- How to do progressive muscle relaxation for anxiety. (n.d.). Anxiety Canada. Retrieved January 11, 2024, from https://www.anxietycanada.com/articles/how-to-do-progressive-muscle-relaxation/
- Living with Anxiety: 6 Tips to Relieve Neck and Muscle Tension. (2021, November 19). Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/anxiety/relieve-tension-in-neck-and-shoulders-from-anxiety
- Muscle Tension, Stress, And Anxiety: How Can I Heal? | BetterHelp. (n.d.). Retrieved January 11, 2024, from https://www.betterhelp.com
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