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5 Top-Notch Tips To Effectively Relieve Muscle Tension Caused By Anxiety


How often do you wake up with tight and tense muscles all over your body?  

How frequently do you suddenly realize that your neck and shoulder muscles are so stiff that you can barely turn your head comfortably? 

Most of the time, we know precisely what is causing this soreness and discomfort.  

Maybe you chalk it down to the intense workout session at the gym last night.  

Maybe your bizarre sleeping positions are to blame. 

But how do you justify the unexplainable aches and muscle tension that you experience even though you have done nothing out of the ordinary? 

Well, we have an answer to that. 

If you are someone who suffers from anxiety as well as unexplained aches and pains, you have come to the right place! 

What most people do not realize is that one of the common symptoms of anxiety is the severe muscle tension and pain that it causes. 

In this article, we will teach you how to effectively relieve muscle pains that are caused by anxiety. 

We guarantee you, by the end of this article, you will learn certain pain-relieving techniques that will help you manage anxiety aches in the short-term as well as long-term. 

Does Anxiety Really Cause Muscle Tension And Pain? 

The short answer to this question is YES. 

Anxiety is not just a psychological problem. A large number of people experience anxiety in physical ways as well. 

When it comes to the physical symptoms in which anxiety manifests itself, muscle tension tops the list.  

In fact, for people who suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, headaches and body aches can be a fairly common symptom. 

When you are anxious, stress and tension build up throughout your body which leads to stiff and sore muscles. 

In a way, anxiety causes our brain to send a “brace for impact” signal throughout our body, which in turn causes all our muscles to tense up.  

How Exactly Do We End Up With Muscle Tension When Anxious? 

There are a few common ways in which anxiety can cause body aches and muscle tension. 

When you experience anxiety, you experience a range of other emotional symptoms such as fear, nervousness, panic, and stress all of which lead to your body turning alert and guarded at all times. 

When your body is constantly alert and stiff, it eventually leads to muscle soreness and aches. 

Another way in which anxiety contributes to muscle pain is by lowering the amount of blood flow to your muscles. 

Allow us to explain. 

When your body is perpetually in a heightened state of awareness caused by anxiety, it activates your body’s fight-or-flight response. 

This means, your muscles find it extremely difficult to relax or rest. 

This fight-or-flight response makes your body release adrenaline. 

As adrenaline pumps within you rapidly, it makes your blood vessels constrict.  

This in turn reduces the blood flow to your muscles. 

The lack of blood supply to your muscles is the primary reason behind the muscle stiffness and tension that you experience. 

When your anxiety is chronic, this issue is further exacerbated which gradually leads to continuous muscle discomfort.  

Being in a constant state of anxiousness eventually tires your muscles out and leads to chronic fatigue and stress. 

It is important to understand that this may not be the only way in which anxiety is causing physical pain. 

In a wide variety of cases, when we experience anxiety or stress, we unknowingly tense up our neck and shoulder muscles.  

In some cases, we may end up slouching which causes our posture to go for a toss. 

This can also sometimes be the underlying cause behind your stiff and tensed up muscles.  

Image by Heike Frohnhoff from Pixabay

What Does Muscle Tension Due To Anxiety Look Like? 

Typically, muscle tension feels like tightness in your body.  

This stiffness can often cause pain and discomfort for the individual experiencing it. 

In more severe cases, it can even restrict movement in which case it becomes important to seek help. 

For the vast majority of individuals, this tension can feel like a perpetual dull ache radiating through the body. 

For a few people, it can also feel like sharp pains and a general ache that causes discomfort. 

5 Top-Notch Tips To Effectively Combat Muscle Tension Caused By Anxiety 

Individuals with anxiety may often find it extremely difficult to manage muscle tension and aches effectively. 

But if physical symptoms of anxiety are ignored for a long time, they can snowball into something much more severe and unmanageable.  

While you can follow our expert-tips to effectively deal with mild to moderate anxiety with great success, we suggest you see a therapist if your anxiety is severe. 

If you have been experiencing muscle tension relating to anxiety, we guarantee that following our tips will help you to a great extent. 

1) Progressive Muscle Relaxation 

This one technique alone has the potential to make the vast majority of people suffering from muscle tension due to anxiety feel better by leaps and bounds. 

Progressive muscle relaxation is a relaxation technique that is extremely helpful for people who suffer from anxiety-related pains or insomnia. 

While many variations of this technique exist, the easiest one that works the best is this – 

  • Begin by getting comfortable and closing your eyes. You can use this technique while lying down, sitting on the couch or a chair. 
  • Now, you simply breathe. Inhale deeply through the nose till your stomach expands, hold for 5 seconds and then release. Repeat this process 3-5 times. 
  • Next, starting with your lower body, start tightening, and then releasing the muscle group. So, for example, begin by clenching your toes inward. Now, squeeze tight while breathing in and holding your breath for 5 seconds. Now, you exhale slowly while releasing your toe muscles. 
  • Follow the same process for every muscle group progressing upward. After your toes, move to your calves, thighs, glutes, and so forth. 
  • By the time you are done, you will notice a massive difference in the way you feel. 
  • Keep in mind, it may take a while to master this technique and practice is key!  

2) A Massage Can Help! 

Usually, if you have a lot of tension in your muscles, it may be a smart idea to visit a massage therapist.  

A massage therapist is highly skilled in releasing any “muscle knots” that may be caused due to anxiety. 

However, we understand that not everyone has the luxury to visit a massage therapist.  

In this case, you could ask your partner to give you a light massage that can help you a great deal. 

Basically, when you massage a muscle group that is stiff and rigid, the friction on the skin surface slightly raises the temperature of the soft tissues in that muscle group. 

This is what relieves tension and reduces pain. 

If you do not have anyone around who could give you a massage, don’t worry, you can give yourself one easily! 

For a neck and shoulder massage, simply place three fingers on the back of your neck and shoulders.  

Apply firm pressure for a few seconds till you feel your muscles relax and then release. 

Repeat the same technique. 

This technique can be used to relieve stiffness in any muscle group. 

A massage usually increases blood flow to the targeted muscle group which releases the tension that has built up due to anxiety. 

3) Hot Shower 

Never underestimate what a nice, hot shower can do for sore and stiff muscles! 

In general, hydrotherapy is a technique that makes use of hot water to relieve stiff joints and muscle tension. 

Hydrotherapy is the process of immersing oneself in a hydrotherapy-tub filled with warm water.  

An easier, at-home alternative to hydrotherapy is taking a hot shower. 

Just like a massage, a hot shower also increases blood circulation throughout the body which is highly beneficial when it comes to anxiety-related pains. 

The warmth of a hot shower can also have psychologically calming effects on an anxious individual. 

Hot showers are an instant quick-fix when it comes to soothing stiff muscles and releasing stored tension. 

4) Aromatherapy 

The practice of using essential oils for its therapeutic benefits is called aromatherapy. 

Aromatherapy has the potential to soothe anxious thoughts which has a direct positive effect on your body as it helps your body and your muscles relax.  

There is evidence available that aromatherapy with the use of certain specific essential oils can help you a great deal with anxiety-induced muscle tension and pain. 

  • The usage of peppermint oil is extremely common when it comes to muscle tension.  
  • Peppermint oil has anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties that can instantly release tension from the targeted muscle group. 
  • Lavender oil in general also promotes relaxation of tight muscles and helps you to achieve a sense of calm radiating throughout your body. 
  • Using just a few drops of pure lemongrass essential oil has also shown promise when it comes to helping your muscles relax and lowers stress levels in anxious individuals. 
  • Rubbing a few drops of Eucalyptus oil is also an excellent option for stiff muscles. 
  • Clary Sage oil is another great oil that is primarily used to relieve anxiety-induced muscle tension and reduce muscle stiffness. It can also help calm anxious thoughts. 

5) Stretching 

We know by now that anxiety literally causes your muscles to tighten which in turn causes discomfort due to restricted blood flow to your muscles. 

Eventually, your body will keep storing stress in your muscles that can have long term consequences if not treated immediately. 

Stretching your body is a great way to increase blood circulation and relieve tightness and pain. 

Trust us when we say this, regular stretching is guaranteed to release tension from your body and make you feel better instantly. 

One great stretching exercise that people of all age groups and activity levels can practice is this: 

  • Stand or sit in a comfortable position and raise your hands above your head. 
  • Keep your back and shoulders straight.  
  • Next, interlock your fingers and slowly move your arms to the right while tilting your body to the right too. 
  • Once tilted slightly, hold the position for about 5 seconds and take as many deep breaths as you can.  
  • Return to the original position. 
  • Keeping your fingers interlocked, move your arms to the left and tilt your body in the same direction. 
  • Hold the position for about 5 seconds and breathe as deeply as you can. 
  • Return to the original position and repeat this exercise at least 5 times initially. 

This exercise releases stiffness and pain in the upper and lower back, neck, and shoulders simultaneously which is exactly where we store tension. 


In conclusion, the next time you experience muscle tension related to anxiety, we urge you to follow the techniques mentioned above. 

By spending a few moments on these techniques and strategies, you are guaranteed to feel much more relaxed and pain-free. 

If you try out these techniques, do let us know how they worked for you! 

Featured Image Source : Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

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Please note that these techniques are not intended to replace the professional care of mental health practitioners. Please see your doctor if you believe you might be suffering with anxiety.

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