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Anxiety Causes Tight Muscles?

teen woman touching head and shoulder with painDid you know that emotional stress is one of the potential causes of muscular hypertonicity or tight muscles?

Feelings of anxiety, depression, or other mental distress can cause a person’s muscles to become tighter and more contracted than normal.

This is because the body responds to emotional stress similarly to physical stress – by releasing hormones like cortisol, activating the sympathetic nervous system, and tightening certain muscles in preparation for action.

And going even further, the vast majority of anxiety patients we see in practice also struggle with digestive challenges, weakened immune systems, and even hormonal problems in addition to the mental and emotional toll anxiety takes.

Perhaps the most common sign and symptom related to anxiety, however, is muscle tension, stress, and fatigue. Now in younger, school-age kids, this won’t show up necessarily as actual physical pain or tension they can feel. But instead, think of it almost like ‘sensory tension’ or ‘emotional pain’ that the child feels in their nervous system.

For older kids, teenagers, and adults, this muscle or motor tension is relatively easy to spot as it will come with complaints of neck pain, headaches, mid to upper back pain, and so forth. But in younger children, you have to look a bit harder to find the neuromuscular and motor tone issues that may be related to or even creating some of the anxiety! So much of our anxiety and sensory integration challenges indeed do stem from stress, and tension stuck in the nerves and muscles in our neck and back.

Sounds too simple? Just think about the last time you had a stiff, cranky neck and headache. Were you irritable and easily agitated? Did you notice your heart rate go up a bit easier? How about your sleep and digestion?


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