(ĐTĐ) – Stress has become an unfortunately commonplace part of life for many people, so much so that we forget how damaging it can be on the body. Aside from the emotional and mental toll it takes, stress can have negative physical effects as well, from fatigue to bodily pain. Neck pain is one of those physical symptoms of stress.
Stress is part of our ingrained fight-or-flight response, flooding our system with adrenaline and causing our muscles to tense in preparation; this stimulates nerves and diverts blood flow away from muscles, which causes stiffness and pain. With prolonged stress, this leads to sore, tight muscles and – in one of the body’s more vicious cycles – the pain causes muscles to tense further.
The neck is a one of the most common places for painful muscular tension as a result of stress. This is not only because the neck is one of the first places to tense up in response to stress, but also because stress exacerbates underlying neck problems, which many people have to begin with. Poor or improper posture is extremely common, especially between constant computer use and propping up phones between neck and shoulder, so in many cases the potential for neck pain is already in place when stress sets in.
Reducing your stress levels and learning to manage it is essential to treating and preventing neck pain. Being aware of stress and its potential triggers is step one; it may seem self-explanatory, but sometimes we just don’t notice it, or we decide to just push through. If you notice stress or tension building, stop, take a few deep breaths, and take a moment to stretch lightly or do some neck rolls. Make sure you’re maintaining a healthy diet and get some exercise, which is helpful for not only reducing stress but soothing muscle pain as well, because it gets blood flowing – and as we know, lack of blood flow to muscles causes pain.
While you’re working on your stress levels, check on postural triggers. Sit upright in your chair with your head directly above your neck, directly above your shoulders. Take frequent breaks, and adjust your car seat so that you can comfortably reach the wheel rather than leaning forward or extending your arms too far. And don’t forget, there’s always massage – you might have to treat yourself!