What is Muscle Tension? Long-Term Impacts of Stress on Your Body

woman experiencing muscle tension in her neck

Stress is a part of our daily lives. It’s our body’s natural response to things out of the ordinary. How we deal with daily stress levels is what becomes important to our mental and physical health. Left unchecked, stress can lead to muscle tension, headaches, elevated blood pressure, and other ailments. Chronic stress can impact your body in the long-term by leaving you more susceptible to medical problems like heart disease, ulcers, and immune system suppression.

One of the most common symptoms of stress is muscle tension. We’re taking a look at what is muscle tension and the long-term effects of stress on your body.

What is Muscle Tension?

So what is muscle tension, exactly? Muscle tension, also known as muscle rigidity or stiffness, is the inability for muscles to relax properly after contracting. It’s not limited to any certain muscle groups in the body, meaning it can happen anywhere. It occurs most commonly, however, in the lower back and neck areas.

Symptoms of Muscle Tension

Learning how to recognize muscle tension is important to treating it. Some symptoms of muscle tension include:

  • Feeling like your muscles are always tight or strained
  • Experiencing reductions in mobility and flexibility from muscle pain
  • Pain or cramps in common muscle areas
  • Tension headaches or migraines

Anxiety muscle tension symptoms can show up suddenly and may be temporary or last for several hours. Muscle tension can be particularly disruptive when trying to relax, go to sleep, or even when waking up. It’s not uncommon for symptoms to compound if stress persists, and can ultimately lead to long-term effects on your body if left unchecked.

What Causes Muscle Tension?

Even though muscle tension is a physical problem, chronic muscle tension is most often caused by psychological stress and anxiety. It stems from our fight or flight reflex, which causes us to tense up in stressful scenarios. While you’re unlikely to face as many physical confrontations today, emotional stress from work or home takes a major toll on your psyche. 

How Can Stress Cause Muscle Tension?

Stress is powerful! Stress not only causes the muscles to tense, but also constricts blood vessels, limiting blood flow throughout the body. This is why unchecked muscle tension can lead to tension headaches, migraines, digestive issues, back pain, and other medical problems.

It’s important to learn what triggers stress for you and how to manage those stress levels. 

Can Anxiety Cause Muscle Tension?

Anxiety is another common cause of muscle tension. Sometimes those with anxiety become hyper aware of their body, and may experience even the slightest shifts more drastically than others. This can continue to elevate their anxiety levels in a negative cycle. The more a person experiences anxiety during muscle tension, the worse the muscle tension becomes.

Long-Term Impact of Stress Related Muscle Tension on Your Body

Now that we’ve examined the answer to “what is muscle tension,” it’s time to see how it can affect your body in the long run. Untreated, the long-term impact of stress-related muscle tension on your body can be very harmful. Chronic stress can exacerbate existing health issues like Chrone’s disease or ulcerative colitis. This is because chronic stress and muscle tension begin to suppress the immune system.

Muscle tension caused by chronic stress can also lead to chronic migraines, lower back pain, increased risk of heart disease, skin problems, and sleep disorders. The long-term effects of stress on your body can snowball into very serious conditions. To counteract these effects, you have to learn how to treat muscle tension and manage stress levels.

Learning How to Relieve Muscle Tension

Discovering what causes muscle tension is important, but now comes treating it. Learning how to relieve muscle tension is a twofold process. First, you need to address the physical muscle tension that is causing pain. Next, you have to address the underlying cause of your muscle tension, such as stress or anxiety, in order to prevent it from becoming chronic.

There are a number of home remedies to treat muscle tension. Taking a hot shower or bath can help soothe the muscles and help you relax. If you’re more active, low-impact activities like stretching and yoga are good ways to reduce muscle tension and stiffness. Be sure to not overexert yourself as that could potentially result in further soreness and injury.

 Using a zero gravity chair is another great way to treat muscle tension and combat stress. A zero gravity massage chair combines the health benefits of the zero gravity chair with massage features to loosen tight muscles and help them heal faster. Massage also helps improve blood circulation, reduce swelling and inflammation, and achieve deeper relaxation. You may also have a model with heat therapy features that help muscles heal quickly.

Managing stress levels is the other key element to treating muscle tension and avoiding long-term negative effects of stress on your body. Mental health is absolutely essential to your overall well being! Try meditating in a zero gravity chair to create a zen spot at home or while relaxing in a hot bath to clear your mind and refocus. Daily meditation, even for short periods of time, has been shown to relax the body and reverse the “fight or flight” reflex that stress engages.

Stress and anxiety happen to everyone. Whether it’s the goings on at work or at home, it’s how you manage your stress levels that affects you physically and mentally. Learning ways to reduce stress and how to relieve muscle tension

Muscle tension is a common experience and most commonly related to stress or anxiety. Learning how to manage stress levels and how to alleviate muscle tension is essential for avoiding their long-term negative effects. Whether it’s daily meditation, low-impact exercise, or choosing a zero gravity chair to relax in, there are a number of ways you can decompress each day. Self care is an important part of your overall well being and you’re sure to feel the positive effects right away.

Right now the importance of self care has been highlighted more than ever. As you spend more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, learn more ways to implement self care at home during quarantine