Stress can take a toll on your mind. However, in addition to feeling overwhelmed or worried, you might suffer physical symptoms, too, such as indigestion, headaches, and tense muscles.
Here at the practice of Edward Carden, MD, in Sherman Oaks, California, we know that stress can impact your neck and spine. In this blog, we explore the link and discuss how you can get relief.
What is stress?
Stress is your body’s reaction to an event or situation. Your body’s response is a natural reaction that kicks your body into flight-or-fight mode. The biological purpose of stress is to help you avoid potentially dangerous situations.
Some sources of stress can be good. For example, the thought of an upcoming tournament can motivate you to train harder each day. You might also feel short-term stress as you try to reach a deadline on a project at your office.
Regardless of what triggers the stress response, your body’s reaction is the same:
- Your brain is made aware of the stressful situation
- Your body releases cortisol, the stress hormone designed to help you fight or flee
- Other hormones are released to help you as well
These hormones produce physical changes in your body, including increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, rapid breathing, and tense muscles.
Stress and pain in your neck and spine
While occasional instances of stress can be good, unmanaged and chronic stress isn’t good for your body. If you’re constantly in a state of stress, your muscles can’t get a break from the tension, and you can end up with chronic pain in your spine and neck.
Stress can naturally make your muscles more tense, especially your trapezius muscles, which are the muscles that run across the top of your back. If these muscles become more tense, it can restrict your neck and shoulder movement and cause your muscles to feel sore, achy, and tight. Furthermore, stress can exacerbate neck and back pain you may already have.
Managing muscle tension at home
If you often have sore neck muscles, doing the following things may help provide relief:
Add neck stretches to your daily routine, including neck rolls and chin drops. For chin drops, lower your chin to your chest for 15 seconds, raise your head, and then repeat 4-5 times.
Exercise, especially aerobic exercise, is a known stress-buster. Whether you’re walking, jogging, or dancing, exercise can boost your mood, release endorphins, and reduce pain. In particular, if your neck muscles are sore, arm circles and jumping jacks are two aerobic exercises that can stretch your neck and shoulder muscles and increase blood supply to these areas.
Nighttime relaxation techniques
End the night with progressive relaxation exercises, in which you contract and then relax different muscle groups, including the muscles in your neck, shoulders, and legs.
Placing warm compresses on your neck muscles can help provide immediate relief.
When neck pain lingers
Practicing stress management techniques and regularly stretching can do wonders for muscle tension and neck pain. However, sometimes neck pain can linger for weeks. If at-home treatments don’t reduce your pain, we can help.
Although stress can contribute to and exacerbate neck pain, other conditions — such as arthritis — can also cause neck pain. After a thorough exam and evaluation, Dr. Carden can recommend treatments for you.
If you continually deal with neck and spine pain, there’s hope. To get a thorough evaluation and to learn about your treatment options, book an appointment online or over the phone with the practice of Edward Carden, MD, today.