Anxiety shoulders: What they look like and how you can tackle them.

Look, we've all got A LOT of stuff going on. Life can be stressful AF. And sometimes your body just wants to NOPE itself right outta there. And judging by your poor little curled-up shoulders, you know exactly what we're talking about.

Whether you're having a s**t time at work, you're stuck in a weird social situation, having relationship qualms or are just stressed as hell over General Life Things, feeling anxious in 2021 can be seriously hard to avoid.

And when it kicks in, hoo boy. The symptoms are about as enjoyable as a swift kick to the gut.

Like, your body *literally* goes into fight-or-flight mode, which is basically your body’s way of hyping itself up to take on a physical threat that you'll need to fight off or run away from. 


Part of this response (whether the threat is physical or not) is that your body starts releasing all these nasty ass stress hormones (lookin' at you, adrenaline and cortisol), thinking it's doing you a solid and getting rid of all the extra baggage that's make you feel like utter poo.

But... it kind of just ends up making everything a whole lot worse. Cute!

Watch: Six soothing solutions to de-stress. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

The release of these hormones just ends up creating a whole heap of muscle tension and adds to your existing cloud of anxiety/stress, often making you feel a lot worse.

Sigh. Five points for effort, body.

According to the Australian Psychological Society, your muscles should begin to relax once this has passed. 

But! Here's the thing - if the anxiety and stress is consistent, your body basically stays in this 'fight or flight' mode.


Meaning? Your muscles stay tense and stiff for longer than they should.

The most common physical symptom of this kind of persistent anxiety is muscle tension and pain felt in the neck and shoulders. 

Enter: Anxiety shoulders.

What do anxiety shoulders look like?

So, what's the go? Do I have anxiety shoulders? You might, you know.

Anxiety and stress-related pain in your shoulders typically makes you feel tense, tight, stiff or sore. So, it'll usually make you look hunched over, with your shoulders rolled inwards. 

Sound familiar?

Listen: Want to find out more bad habits you're probably guilty of? 'Course you do! Check out Mamamia's podcast Out Loud to find out all the ways in which we’re exhibiting poor etiquette when eating out. Post continues below. 

This kind of muscle tension is usually not only felt around your shoulders but can also be felt around your neck, and the back or top of your head (pretty much feels like you're wearing an elastic band around your head. Fun!). 

The pain can range from slightly irritating to severe.

If you're experiencing 'anxiety shoulders' you might also feel the need to 'crack' or 'roll' your neck in order to relieve some of that tension and stiffness. 

Anyone else feel... seen? SAME.

Over time, this can all lead to chronic pain and other health issues - which is no good.

So, what's the best way to tackle anxiety shoulders?

While it's not always easy to do, preventing 'anxiety shoulders' and getting rid of stress-related neck and shoulder tension is a thing you can do.

That muscle tension in your shoulders actually responds really well to things like stretching, yoga, relaxation, and other stress management methods.

Image: Getty


In fact, yoga is probably your best bet. 

A study found that yoga was one of the most effective treatments of neck and shoulder pain, with nine weeks of yoga resulting in both pain and tension relief.

So, instead of trying to crack your neck every two seconds - sign up for yoga!

Another thing you can do is work on managing your stress and anxiety levels. It's easier said than done, we know - but creating a 'relaxation response' when you're feeling anxious, might help stop these symptoms of stress.

Something as simple as moving your body for 20 minutes a day could help. No, seriously! Taking your cute little self on a walk at lunch might help lower your stress levels and relieve that pesky tension in your shoulders. It's science!

Research also shows that practicing some form of meditation can help reduce this inflammation response triggered by stress, helping to relax your mind and decrease the feelings of anxiety. 

If you've never really meditated before (cos, same), there are tons of free apps out there that make it easy for beginners. Why not start with five minutes a day and work yourself up a few minutes per week?

We bet you'll notice a difference.

Prefer to start small? Healthline has five easy stretches you can do at work that can help ease your crusty old anxiety shoulders.

Do you have anxiety shoulders? Share with us in the comment section below.

Feature image: Getty

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