Is STRESS causing your NECK PAIN? (How to Know)


A middle-aged businesswoman is sitting at her desk with her laptop in front of her. She is holding her neck and trapezius muscles while looking up and to the right.

Have you been dealing with unrelenting neck pain but have no idea where it’s coming from? The real cause of your neck pain may just be the stress in your life. It’s important to consider the following information to know if stress is what’s causing your neck pain.

Typically, stress is the cause of your neck pain if you experience neck pain but have no previous injuries or musculoskeletal problems of the neck or spine. Developing neck pain that is sudden and continues as long as you experience physical, emotional, or mental stress is likely stress-related.

Knowing the cause of your neck pain is beneficial because it empowers you to be able to do something about it. Let’s examine further the ways that stress relates to acute or chronic neck pain.

How STRESS relates to PAIN

Stress in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. There’s good stress and bad stress. Good stress is what we experience when we learn something new like a language, job, or exercise.

It’s stressful in the beginning because we have no foundation of knowledge or experience that feels supportive to us. However, the learning curve doesn’t last forever. As we grow and advance in our knowledge and skills in that particular thing, we find that we have to add new challenges in order to grow.

We can understand the benefits of stress when we see our muscles grow in response to weight-bearing exercise. In nature, we see how plants benefit from different forms of stress when they grow in a certain direction and bear fruit.

Our muscles are not forever sore and weak from exercise. The plant doesn’t become stunted in growth or wither and die because it was trimmed. Actually, these forms of stress are necessary and beneficial.

These are good examples of when we are introduced to stimuli our body responds by releasing stress hormones that enable us to meet the challenge.

After these stimuli leave our presence, the body stops sending out stress hormones because it no longer perceives a threat. Then the body sends out hormones that are conducive to relaxation allowing us to retreat from our defensive position.

This mechanism is known as the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. We should be resting in our parasympathetic nervous system most of the time.

We should not be in our defensive sympathetic nervous system any more than sporadic intermittent periods of time.

Stress becomes bad or unhealthy when we are performing in our sympathetic nervous system the majority of the time. The body is in a state of receiving a constant flow of stress hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine essentially causing a state of chronic inflammation.

The inflammation caused by this endless flow of stress hormones wreaks havoc on the body. You can’t relax and the endless inflammatory response causes pain, swelling, and suboptimal function of your body tissues. You are basically living as if a threat is always present in your life.

This is when stress becomes chronic and unhealthy.

Why it’s a PAIN in your NECK

When you are in a car and the car in front of you suddenly stops, what do you do?

Especially if you’re a passenger of that vehicle? Or at the top of a really high rollercoaster and it’s about to descend? Naturally, you tense up your face, head, neck, and shoulder muscles. Maybe even put your arms in front of you in a rigid protective stance.

This is your body’s natural defense mechanism kicking in, the sympathetic nervous system.

Your brain perceived a threat and released a flood of stress hormones to different parts of your body so they could react quickly. You tensed your upper body and even your breathing became more shallow and rapid.

This isn’t something you even had to think about and prepare to perform. It’s a natural mind-body response to stimuli. It’s your body’s way of protecting you from harm.

Firemen need a constant strong flow of water in order to put out a building that’s on fire. It’s going to end either with them running out of water or running out of fire.

Just like the firemen, the inflammatory response uses up the body’s nutrient stores to produce more stress hormones, supplying consistent fuel to the inflammatory response.

Since you are performing in the sympathetic nervous system you probably won’t have much of an appetite either. Digestion suffers because blood has been diverted to other body parts needed to protect you from danger.

Eventually, your muscles don’t get the nourishment they need to repair fully and become chronically sore and painful.

You’ve become stuck in a never-ending stress-pain cycle.

When this continues, the muscle pain and soreness spread to other areas like the jaw, scalp, forehead, and temples. Signs of chronic muscle tension can be regular headaches, TMJ, migraines, etc.

It’s important to identify if stress is the cause of your neck pain. Unchecked stress leads to many other more serious health conditions that can be fatal. Now is the time to act to address the culprit of your pain- STRESS.

Get out of the NECK PAIN cycle

Most or all of us are experiencing stress on an unprecedented scale. The stress that we face has become chronic for most of us. You may have a demanding job, toxic relationship(s), and be worried about how you will be able to afford the bills in the future.

Add on to these physical or mental diseases that are all-consuming. Feeling unsafe and uncertain in this world will cause anyone to be stressed out.

Thankfully, there are many things within our control that can help us ease back into our parasympathetic nervous system and start to relax.

Try making a list of things that are current stressors in your life and a list of things that make you feel relaxed.

Analyze how you can increase the proportion of things that make you feel relaxed and decrease the stressors.

Make an action plan and commit to taking specific actions that will increase your sense of relaxation. You may find that you have undefined boundaries and setting boundaries with others and yourself will be necessary.

Take time to feel your feelings. Don’t know what they are?

Try journaling as an exercise to uncover feelings that you have been avoiding. Just getting them out can be very therapeutic.

Psychotherapy can be very beneficial in addressing anxiety, depression, and healing from past traumatic experiences.

Taking a walk out in nature can allow you time to think and process what’s happening in your life, your goals, and how you’re going to get there.

Self-massage, stretching, therapeutic salt baths, aromatherapy, and wholesome nutrition should be included in your regular self-care kit.

Can you afford to get regular massages? Do it! The benefit well outweighs the cost. Any change you can make to get out of chronic stress situations is a step in the right direction.

This article was written by and is the intellectual property of www.galeanomassage.com. If this article appears anywhere else on the internet it was stolen from the copyright owner.


MEDICAL DISCLAIMER

The content in this article is for informational, entertainment, and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a trained qualified physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Galeano Massage nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, or supplements or those diagnosed with a medical illness should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

REFERENCES:

Bruflat AK, Balter JE, McGuire D, Fethke NB, Maluf KS. Stress management as an adjunct to physical therapy for chronic neck pain. Phys Ther. 2012 Oct;92(10):1348-59. doi: 10.2522/ptj.20110489. Epub 2012 Jun 14. PMID: 22700538; PMCID: PMC3461134.

Daher A, Halperin O. Association between Psychological Stress and Neck Pain among College Students during the Coronavirus Disease of 2019 Pandemic: A Questionnaire-Based Cross-Sectional Study. Healthcare (Basel). 2021 Nov 9;9(11):1526. doi: 10.3390/healthcare9111526. PMID: 34828572; PMCID: PMC8617778.

Svedmark Å, Björklund M, Häger CK, Sommar JN, Wahlström J. Impact of Workplace Exposure and Stress on Neck Pain and Disabilities in Women-A Longitudinal Follow-up After a Rehabilitation Intervention. Ann Work Expo Health. 2018 May 28;62(5):591-603. doi: 10.1093/annweh/wxy018. PMID: 29562318.

Sarah

I've been practicing Massage Therapy since 2014. I'm a health and wellness enthusiast. I'm always learning and experimenting with different techniques, recipes, and healing modalities. I believe that we need to approach health and wellness from a WHOLE-listic point of view and understand that it will constantly be changing and is never stagnant. We are all unique and what works for one person will not necessarily work for another person. As I grow, change, and experiment I will share what I have learned as it may help someone else in need.

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