Stress can affect the body in many ways. Not only can it cause headaches and mood swings, it can also present itself as neck pain. While experiencing some amount of stress is normal, recurring stress can cause many musculoskeletal issues.
The body releases certain hormones when stress occurs. Adrenaline is the “fight or flight” chemical that can cause the muscles around the spine and neck to tense up. Cortisol is another stress hormone that can eventually lead to loss of muscle mass if released in excess.
Stress can show itself physically in the following ways:
- Enlarges blood vessels in the neck muscles
- Clenching of the neck, jar, and shoulders causes muscle tightening
- Restricts neck and shoulder movement
- Can heighten perception of pain, making it feel worse
Focusing on ways to treat the body and mind can help relieve stress and neck pain.
Here are a few habits and treatments to try and incorporate into your daily activities to reduce stress:
- Stretching and Exercise – Stretching the neck can loosen muscle tightness and help with range of motion. Physical activity and exercising releases endorphins and decreases cortisol levels which not only helps to reduce stress but can improve your overall health. You can pick something simple to do such as taking a break at work to do a quick walk around the office. Remember to ask your doctor before beginning a new exercise to make sure it is safe and won’t cause further pain.
- Healthy Diet – Developing healthy eating habits can help improve your mood and reduce stress. Try to avoid too much coffee as caffeine is known to affect sleep cycles and may make you feel more agitated. Eating healthier can also lead to weight loss, which can lessen pressure on the spine and promote better posture.
- Gentle Massage – Massaging the tense muscles of the neck can be a great way to lessen the pain. Getting a massage from another person or professional can also help relax the mind and be a stress-relieving experience. Adding a hot or cold compress can help provide more relief and lower inflammation in the neck.
- Deep Breathing – Relaxing and clearing the mind through deep, relaxing breaths can help relieve neck pain and reduce stress. You can follow simple guided breathing exercises online or go at your own pace. Practicing deep breathing exercises for 10-20 minutes everyday can reduce cortisol and adrenaline hormones and ease the pain felt in the neck. It can also provide you with tools to help remain calm during stressful situations.
- Sleep – Lack of sleep can be the cause of many issues. Not sleeping well can cause excess stress and muscle strain. Practicing good sleeping habits such as having a set bedtime and set wake up time every morning can affect your quality of sleep in a positive way. Having a relaxing bedtime routine such as reading a book can help calm the mind and lead to a more restful sleep.