Does citalopram cause neck tension? (5+ tips)

In this article, we will discuss whether citalopram causes neck tension as a side effect or not. We will also explore what research suggests on this, the relationship between citalopram and neck tension and the management tips for treating neck tension.

Does citalopram cause neck tension?

Yes, citalopram may cause neck tension. Although it is not a commonly reported side effect of citalopram, it’s important to remember that individuals are different and react differently to medications.

Citalopram is commonly used for the treatment of depression and anxiety. It is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which works by affecting the levels of a neurotransmitter in the brain called serotonin. This neurotransmitter tends to reduce depression and anxiety by improving one’s overall mood and boosting motivation. (1)

If you’re experiencing neck pain or discomfort while taking citalopram, it’s best to consult with your doctor. They can help determine whether it is due to medication’s side effects or if there is some other underlying problem.

How does citalopram cause neck tension?

The mechanism that links citalopram directly to neck tension is not clear. However, it is believed that citalopram is an SSRI and it works by balancing the levels of a chemical in the brain called serotonin. (1,3)

While the primary action of citalopram lies in the central nervous system, serotonin also plays an important role in muscle function. So any alterations in serotonin could affect your muscle tone and lead to neck tension or discomfort. (3)

People are unique and can react differently to medications, so an individual’s uniqueness may lead to unique responses. The specific cause of discomfort and stiffness in the neck can vary among individuals and various factors both related and unrelated to citalopram may contribute.

SSRIs like citalopram can sometimes increase anxiety and restlessness in some individuals, especially during the starting period of treatment when the body is not much adjusted to the medication. This could also be the reason for muscle tension in the neck area. (3)

It’s important to remember that the relationship between citalopram and neck tension is not well-defined and if you’re experiencing this side effect it’s best to reach out to your healthcare provider.

What does research suggest?

According to research, citalopram can cause sudden and involuntary contractions of muscles which could be painful. This condition could be referred to as acute dystonia. (2)

A survey was conducted in which patients who were prescribed citalopram were studied closely, nine patients participated. They were started with a dose of 20mg citalopram which was increased to an average of 27mg.

Some patients experienced acute dystonia (muscle tension) after about nine days of taking citalopram. Along with this they also reported other common side effects of citalopram like feeling sleepy, stomach discomfort and nightmares. (5)

This study was done to highlight that citalopram has the potential to cause acute dystonia such as unintended and painful muscle contractions. Doctors need to be aware of this possibility and educate patients beforehand about all the potential side effects and symptoms they could experience during the treatment of citalopram. (2)

What are the symptoms of citalopram-induced neck tension?

If you’re sensing muscle tension that you think may be related to citalopram, it’s crucial to consult with your healthcare provider. Symptoms of muscle tension in the neck and general might include: (4,5)

  • Tightness: You can feel tightness or stiffness in your neck muscles.
  • Discomfort: Experiencing pain in the muscles.
  • Reduced flexibility: Feeling like you can’t move certain parts of your body as easily as before, neck in this case.
  • Soreness: Feeling a bit sore or uncomfortable in specific muscle areas.
  • Difficulty relaxing: Finding it hard to relax certain muscles.

Always talk to your healthcare provider openly and discuss any concerns or symptoms you might be experiencing.

What are the management tips to reduce citalopram-induced neck tension?

Here are some general tips that might help you relieve neck tension: (5)

Discuss with your doctor:

Share your symptoms with your healthcare provider. They will help you identify whether the neck stiffness is due to citalopram or if there is some underlying cause for it.

Consider medication adjustment: 

Your doctor may adjust the dosage of citalopram or explore alternative medications if needed. However, any changes should be made strictly under their supervision. Don’t adjust or stop the medication on your own.

Practice good posture:

You must maintain proper posture especially when you’re sitting for long periods like a desk job. Avoid positions that strain or put excessive pressure on your neck.

Gentle neck exercises:

Perform neck exercises gently to reduce muscle tension and improve flexibility, like slowly stretching and rotating your neck.

Heat or cold therapy:

 Try applying a warm compress or ice pack to your neck area to help relax muscles. Be sure to use a cloth to protect your skin.


Try massaging your neck with some balm or oil to reduce muscle stiffness and improve blood circulation in that area like Voltaren gel which is used to relieve pain and inflammation. You can do this yourself or seek professional massage therapy.

Stress management:

 Practice methods that help in stress reduction, like inhaling and exhaling deep breaths, practising meditation to calm your mind and body or doing yoga as stress can also contribute to muscle tension.

Stay hydrated:

 Make sure that you’re drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated as dehydration can affect muscle function and lead to tension.

Adjust sleeping position:

Use a supportive pillow while sleeping and try different sleeping positions to find out which one is more comfortable and minimize strain or pressure on the neck.

In my opinion, if you are experiencing neck tension that you think might be related to citalopram, reach out to your healthcare provider and your symptoms and concerns with them. Your doctor or pharmacist can explore the potential adjustments in medication, dosage or alternative treatments.

In addition to this, your pharmacist may provide insight into lifestyle changes or over-the-counter remedies like analgesic ointments to reduce the pain and stiffness in your neck muscles.

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