Does stress cause neck pain? The answer is yes. If you suffer from neck pain recently and want to learn more about how to solve it, we have some suggestions for you. Stress and anxiety are the general main causes of neck pain. Sore necks can be also caused by sleeping positions, injuries, or incorrect posture. The muscles in your neck are constantly being utilized to hold up your head. If you have an average size head you are putting about 15 pounds of weight on your neck muscles while you are in the upright position. When you add physical or emotional stress to your day, you have the perfect recipe for chronic, unceasing neck pain. There are a few simple steps you can take to either reduce or eliminate the pain that results from stress.
How do stress and anxiety cause neck pain?
The musculoskeletal nervous system reacts automatically to negative experiences and trauma and presents that reaction in the form of pain. Stress-related pain, however, is usually concentrated in the neck muscles as a result of emotionally driven anxiety. This kind of stress and anxiety affect the primary muscles and nerves that traverse through the spine, shoulders, and neck.
Most people at one time or another have been so stressed or anxious that they have experienced muscle tension in their neck or back. When muscles in your body tense up it can actually cause harm, sometimes temporarily, and sometimes it can persist over a long period of time. Long-term tension oftentimes begets chronic neck or back pain and has a snowball effect. Before stress has the opportunity to become potentially damaging, it’s reasonable to consider remedies for neck pain before it becomes chronic.
How to relieve neck tension
Minor stress-related neck pain can generally be addressed with self-care according to most physical therapists. You can employ a range of emotional coping strategies, dietary changes, and posture correction techniques as your first line of defense. When you decide to take an active role in preventing stress-related neck pain or addressing it as soon as you can, the treatments often have faster and better results. You can help yourself get back to your routine more quickly.
For minor neck pain, you could try some of these hassle-free home remedies:
- Put on heat or ice on the painful area. Apply ice for the first 2 to 3 days, after that use heat. For heat therapy, you can have a heating pad, warm showers, or hot compresses. You can also take painkillers including ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- Exercise, however, steers clear of painful routines. This can help calm your discomfort and lower inflammation.
- Gently stretch the neck muscles by slowing up and down, side-to-side, exercises.
- Sleep on a firm mattress with no pillow or special neck pillow.
- Ask your doctor about a soft neck collar to alleviate discomfort.
If you are in the moderate stages of stress-related neck pain, try one or all of these surprisingly effective neck pain relief methods before you make a trip to your doctor or chiropractor’s office:
Get a Massage:
Massaging the muscles that are most tense and irritated is one of the best ways to decrease the pain in your neck. You will further reduce the strain on your neck and body if you let someone else (a partner, a friend, or a licensed massage therapist) do the massaging for you. You can also try to add a hot or cold compress to speed direct relief to the tenderest areas.
Stretch It Out
Stretching is a phenomenal technique and has positive benefits for a variety of ailments. Stretching increases blood flow and stress-related pain if you can learn the right way to stretch the affected muscles you will find the pain subsides quickly. Stretching the muscle that traverses from your lower back to the top of your neck can be especially beneficial if you make it part of your daily routine. There are several effective stretching exercises that can be done at home and without specialized equipment that come highly recommended by doctors.
You don’t have to be in a high-priced studio to practice yoga. A simple search on the internet will yield hundreds of poses ranging from easy to difficult that you can do in the privacy of your living room. Yoga relieves tension, eases muscle pain, reduces stress, and increases muscle strength. A recent Harvard study on yoga and anxiety also confirms that just a few minutes of yoga can remarkably improve your overall health, and wellness, and increase your natural ability to cope with stress.
Stop Bad Habits
We all know that smoking just about anything, cigarettes included, is harmful for obvious reasons, but it is not so well known that consuming caffeine before bed can have underlying harmful effects. If you stimulate your nervous and the musculoskeletal system, it can result in undue tension. The resulting stress-related neck pain will build up even if you are not feeling particularly stressed.
Exercise More Often
Moderate exercise benefits the body, mind, and spirit in so many ways. Cortisol is the hormone the body releases in response to stress, but moderate exercise has been shown to decrease your cortisol levels while minimizing oxidative stress. When these two benefits combine, you will notice that the pain you feel that is associated with stress is greatly decreased or altogether eliminated. The pain in your neck, back, and shoulders can be gone within a single session. Mayo Clinic reports that regular exercise improves your mood and fights against disease.
NOTE: You should call your doctor right away if you cannot get a handle on your emotional well-being. You should also seek treatment as soon as possible if it is causing more than moderate-to-severe neck pain.