Zoloft and Neck Pain

zoloft neck pain

Could your antidepressants be causing your neck pain?

Neck pain and Zoloft (sertraline) can be connected in a number of ways. Sometimes Zoloft may cause neck pain, sometimes it can actually help relieve neck pain, so what can you do if this common antidepressant and anxiety medication appears connected with your neck pain?

Some patients taking Zoloft for anxiety disorders report developing headaches and odd pains in the head and front of the neck or throat. These symptoms may appear similar to some symptoms of panic attacks, including the closing up of the throat, lightheadedness and pressure in the head and neck. The irony is that a low dose of Zoloft ineffective for treating anxiety may still induce side-effects and, essentially, worsen some patients’ anxiety symptoms, whereas a higher dose could help with the anxiety but present more problems in terms of side-effects.

TMJ, Neck Pain and Zoloft

Zoloft and neck pain may also be connected due to one of the potential side-effects of sertraline, namely involuntary jaw-clenching. The muscles in the jaw may freeze up, as may those in the neck, with patients having difficulties getting the muscles to relax even with massage and myofascial release. Tension in the jaw and the neck may then lead to neck pain and stiffness, along with headaches and referred pain in the arms and upper back.

Zoloft and Jaw Pain

Patients with mild symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder prior to taking Zoloft may find that the side-effects of the drug result in an exacerbation of these symptoms, with unilateral jaw pain arising, i.e. right-sided jaw pain or left-sided jaw pain only. A combination of muscle tension in the cervical spinal muscles and in the jaw may also prompt jaw and neck pain when using Zoloft.

Relieving Jaw Pain

Those who are advised to continue taking Zoloft despite connected neck pain and jaw clenching may then decide to begin using a dental night guard or mouth guard so as to not wear away enamel on the teeth. Other medications and supplements, such as magnesium citrate and phosphatidylcholine may be able to relax the tense jaw and relieve associated neck pain. Unfortunately, some patients report experiencing chronic jaw and neck pain when taking Zoloft which persists even after stopping taking the drug. This may be partly due to the development of the habit of jaw clenching and tensing with hope that treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy may address this issue.

What Zoloft Can Treat

Zoloft is sertraline hydrochloride and is used for treating a number of conditions, including:

  • Depression
  • stress
  • anxiety
  • generalized anxiety disorder
  • obsessive compulsive disorder
  • dysthymia

Side-Effects of Zoloft

There are a number of side-effects to consider when prescribed Zoloft, such as depression, nausea, weakness, fatigue, and stress and anxiety. Stress can, itself, lead to neck pain through muscle tension or even through contributing factors like alcohol abuse, poor diet and nutrition, and problems involving general care of oneself. Rates of insomnia as a side-effect of Zoloft can be as high as 28% and lack of sleep can also induce neck pain or increase sensitivity to pain.

Rates of Neck Pain with Zoloft

Online self-reporting of side-effects from Zoloft included 0.99% of people reporting neck pain; this does not mean that around 1% of patients taking Zoloft experience neck pain but that those reporting any side-effects from the drug report neck pain just under 1% of the time. More than 68,000 people filled out this particular online survey, with 670 reporting neck pain with Zoloft use.

zoloft and neck pain trend in reporting

Older Patients Report More Neck Pain with Zoloft

The report also includes demographic information which shows that more women than men experience neck pain when taking Zoloft (70% vs 30%), and that the onset of neck pain peaks after one to six months on Zoloft and again after two to five years. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of patients reporting neck pain and Zoloft use are over forty years old with most patients over the age of sixty and less than 17% of patients below thirty years old. As many cases of neck pain arise from wear and tear in the cervical spine it is perhaps safe to assume that a certain number of these reports of neck pain in Zoloft use would have occurred regardless of the medication. This, of course, does not invalidate the possibility that Zoloft is responsible for the neck pain.

Zoloft and Neck Pain: What’s the Connection?

Numerous medications list neck pain as a potential side-effect, including Fosamaz, Lipitor, Aspirin and Prednisone. Many of the patients reporting neck pain with Zoloft are being treated for depression, bipolar disorder, osteoporosis, pain and anxiety and this can create problems when trying to determine the connection between Zoloft and neck pain as the symptom may be independent of the medication or, indeed, the reason the medication is being taken.

Dystonia, Zoloft and Neck Pain

Patients whose neck pain suddenly occurred after beginning to take Zoloft for an unrelated condition may be experiencing dystonia related to the medication. All incidences of severe neck pain should be investigated as should chronic neck pain in order to rule out serious conditions such as meningitis, spinal cord compression. It may be that switching medications relieves the neck pain and confirms the suspicion that it was a side-effect of Zoloft. In other cases there may be a clear cause of neck pain independent of the drug and the relationship between neck pain and Zoloft may be purely coincidental; all cases warrant investigation, however.


“Could Zoloft Cause Neck Pain?” – eHealthMe – Real World Drug Outcomes. http://www.ehealthme.com/. Accessed November 5th 2012.

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