Dealing with Stress-Induced Neck Pain
If you find yourself dealing with high levels of stress in your life, don't be surprised if your neck becomes sore and stiff, too. In fact, research shows stress can contribute to a variety of signs and symptoms in addition to neck pain, such as poor sleep, indigestion, and mental fogginess. Stress can even increase your risk of other conditions including heart disease and depression.
To this end, your painful neck may be a helpful tool: a signal from your body that you're stressed out and need a little help.
Can Stress Really Cause Neck Pain?
In the face of perceived or real threats to our well-being (which can include anything from a shark attack to financial worries), our central nervous system activates the classic "fight or flight" response. This triggers the release certain chemicals and hormones (like cortisol and adrenaline), which changes our mood and physiology to help us deal with the stress, at least until the real or perceived threat goes away.
But if these threats don't go away (e.g., if we constantly worry), the neurochemical changes tend not to go away either. This isn't ideal for health since our bodies work best when functioning from a state of homeostasis (an inner state of balance and equilibrium—in both the physical and mental sense!).
Ultimately, it's this long-term exposure to the "fight or flight" syndrome which explains how chronic stress can impose a host of negative effects on your body—including increased tension, stiffness, and pain within the musculoskeletal tissues in your neck.
Note that this pain is not "in your head." It's triggered or exacerbated by psychological and emotional factors and can be quite debilitating. In some cases, the neck pain is precipitated by an actual injury, such as a muscle strain or whiplash, but the dysfunction continues well after the tissues have healed.
5 Ways to Self-Manage Your Stress-Induced Neck Pain
- Stretch - Gentle neck stretches can relieve tension and stiffness in your neck muscles (ask our chiropractor for specific tips).
- Move - Daily exercise releases pain-relieving endorphins, improves blood flow, and is good for mental and physical well-being.
- Relax - Schedule a massage. Learn to meditate. Color, journal, paint, or do anything you find peaceful and restorative.
- Rest - Sleep is critical for normalizing our body's response to stress. Aim for at least 7-8 hours per night in a pitch black room.
- Reach out - Talk to your friends, family members, co-workers, and other people. Whether you need to delegate a task, ask advice, or simply vent a little, leaning on others can be of great help.
Is Your Neck Pain Persisting? Visit Dr. Gregg Anderson Today!
In addition to at-home strategies for stress-induced neck pain, you may want to consult with a doctor chiropractic who can help you manage your symptoms and address their root causes, be they mental and/or psychological. At Anderson Chiropractic Clinic, Sacramento chiropractor Dr. Gregg Anderson, D.C. takes a big picture view of your overall health, then scales down his treatment to address specific impairments like stiffness, pain, impaired motor control, and lifestyle habits. His services and techniques are drug-free, non-invasive, and completely customizable to meet your needs.