Suffering from anxiety is tough enough. But when you also experience the pain of swollen lymph nodes, that can certainly add to your physical and emotional discomfort. Not only that,the feeling of swollen lymph nodes can be downright scary for some people, especially those with anxiety. It’s no wonder, since some anxious people have a tendency to experience fear and worry.1,2
No one knows whether anxiety and stress can cause swollen lymph nodes, although it sure might feel that way. Although medical studies have yet to show a direct link between the two conditions, we know that swollen lymphnodes can be a symptom of conditions brought on by stress, such as infections. That’s because lymph nodes help the body battle infections and the germs that cause them.3,4
Infections, which can include swollen lymph nodes, are one way the body reacts to stress,1 and anxiety can trigger the way your body responds to stress.2
Other symptoms of anxiety and stress that could make a person feel as if he or she has swollen lymph nodes include: 1,5
- Difficulty swallowing, especially during anxiety or panic attacks
- Feeling as if you have a lump in your throat
- Jaw and/or neck pain due to grinding teeth at night, or tightening muscles during stressful periods
- Muscle spasms or tension
Could you have swollen lymph nodes and anxiety?
The answer is, of course. Although we don’t know the exact reasons why, we do know there’s an established link between stress and infection and a link between infection and swollen lymph nodes. We also know that some people with anxiety will experience PHYSICAL symptoms as a result of anxiety and stress.1,2 That’s why it’s important to determine whether anxiety is involved in the feelings you experience, including the pain of swollen lymph nodes.
It is also important to have your doctor examine swollen lymph nodes if they persist more than a week or two or are accompanied by other symptoms.
Sevenways to relieve the pain of swollen lymph nodes due to anxiety
Anxiety can be treated in a variety of ways. Complementary alternative medicine (CAM) is often successfully used to address the symptoms of anxiety, which could in turn, be causing you to feel swollen lymph node pain. The following types of CAM have been shown to help relieve anxiety and the pain related to it: 5-10
- Avoid and/or limit caffeine and alcohol—While you may think that a few cups of coffee or glasses of wine will help you unwind, the truth is that these substances can cause anxiety. Start out by gradually limiting your consumption of these beverages
- Bodywork—Massage, aromatherapy, reflexology, acupuncture have all been shown to help some people reduce anxiety
- Yoga—This slow, steady form of exercise and stretching, which incorporates breathing and meditation, has been found to be helpful for relieving anxiety
- Aerobic Exercise—Regular exercise that gets your heart pumping and even helps you work up a bit of a sweat is considered helpful for relieving stress and anxiety
- Herbal remedies—Medical studies have shown that KavaKava root, Ashwagandha , Passionflower, and Chamomile may help reduce anxiety symptoms
- Nutritional supplements—5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), B-complex, Calcium/Magnesium combination, GABA (an amino acid) have been recommended to relieve anxiety symptoms
- Sleep and rest—Making sure you get enough sleep and taking short rest breaks throughout the day, can help relieve your tension
The most important way to address any pain due to anxiety is to get to the source of your anxiety. Using natural remedies and CAM, you can improve your chances of obtaining relief.
- The American Institute of Stress. 50 Common Signs and Symptoms of Stress. Available at: http://www.stress.org/stress-effects/ . Accessed on October 1, 2012.
- National Institutes of Health (NIH). Worried sick: living with anxiety disorders. NIH News in Health. November 2011. Available at: http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/Nov2011/Feature1. Accessed on October 1, 2012.
- Swollen lymph nodes. New York Times. Available at: http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/symptoms/swollen-glands/overview.html . Accessed on October 1, 2012.
- Johns Hopkins University. Lymphadenitis. Johns Hopkins Medicine: Health Library. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/infectious_diseases/lymphadenitis_134,80/. Accessed on October 1, 2012.
- Balch JF, Stengler M. Anxiety. Prescription for Natural Cures. 2004. John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ. 46-52
- Gottlieb B. Techniques to help control anxiety and panic attacks. Alternative cures: the most effective natural home remedies for 160 health problems. 2000. Rodale. 33-37.
- Sarris J, Moylan S, Camfield DA, et al. Complementary medicine, exercise, meditation, diet, and lifestyle modification for anxiety disorders: a review of current evidence. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012; 2012: 809653. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3434451/. Accessed on October 1, 2012.
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Generalized anxiety disorder. Available at: http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad/symptoms. Accessed on October 1, 2012.
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Stress: symptoms. Available at: http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/stress. Accessed on October 1, 2012
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Chronic pain. Available at: http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/chronic-pain