Sometimes emotional and mental challenges can wear on us internally and physically, in the form of sickness or pain. If you’ve ever experienced periods of brief or chronic stress, you’ve probably endured the feeling of tension throughout your body, which is both uncomfortable and debilitating.
Stress neck pain can be caused by stress and stress-related anxiety, and is a painful sign that something is looming in your mind. You don’t have to suffer. There are a few things you can do at home to relieve this discomfort, but first it’s important to understand what you’re dealing with in the first place.
What is Stress Neck Pain?
Stress neck pain can often be related to a real physical condition. For example, if you injured your shoulder and now it’s become difficult to drive, write or cook you’re likely to have built up stress that adds tension to the neck and leads to pain.
If you suffer from anxiety, your body is physically feeling the toll of a high stress condition, and can show up by way of a nagging, constant pain in the joints and muscles.
Stress comes from our body's’ natural fight or flight response. This is the nervous system function that tells us to be alarmed when we perceive danger and urges us to fight back or scram. When our mind enters fight or flight our muscles tense, which may causes fatigue and pain in our bodies. Particularly the neck, which is close to the spine-centered nervous system.
While the correlation between neck pain and stress may seem like an easy fix (eliminate stressors) this isn’t always an easy task to accomplish. Especially if you are undergoing a hard time at work or in your personal life, or if you’re battling anxiety. Here are some easy ways to cope with and relieve stress neck pain.
How to Relieve Stress Neck Pain
Participating in strenuous physical activity that doesn’t injure your neck or cause too much discomfort, will give you energy. When this happens, pain is relieved and your body becomes more relaxed, which eliminates stress in the body.
Endorphins, "feel good" hormones that are released when we exercise, can help you feel more upbeat and think less about your stress neck pain.
Neck stretches may be somewhat discomforting initially, but they are great ways to work out the dull, throbbing pain in your neck. Try these three stretches.
- First, stand a couple feet away from the corner of a wall (facing it) and place a forearm on each wall. Lean forward slowly, feeling the stretch on the side of your neck and chest.
- In the second stretch, raise your arm high, resting your elbow against a wall or door frame. Turn your head away from the raised arm and lower your chin. This will gently stretch the muscles in the back of your neck. You can use your hand to slowly pull your head further down to extend the stretch.
- With your back completely straight, place one hand on your chin and the other hand on the top of your head. Gently pull your head in the direction of the hand that’s on your chin. Hold for about 5-10 seconds. Switch hands and stretch in the opposite direction.
Here are some more neck stretches to try.
One of the best ways to ease tension, relax and work sore muscles is to get a massage. You have two options: self-massage or visit a licensed professional. Using your fingers or a portable massager, you can massage the muscles in your neck and upper back to remove tension from the area. It saves money and allows you to treat your neck pain in the comfort of your home at your desired frequency.
If you opt to go to a professional, you will receive care from a licensed massage therapist. They're trained to remove tension and stress from the muscles through various techniques designed to relieve pressure without injuring the client. The great advantage to hiring a professional is that you will enjoy the benefits of a skilled practitioner and the effective tools they have access to.
4. Hot Water
Taking a very hot shower or bath can do wonders in easing neck pain that stems from stress or anxiety. High temperatures can be soothing to many kinds of pain and is often one of the simplest solutions for muscle soreness.
Standing in the shower and stretching under the hot water can loosen up the tension in your neck and lead to greater relief from the stress pain you are currently suffering from. Repeat this activity whenever neck pain arises.
5. Tackle Stress Head On
If your stress has become a long-term issue, it’s best advised that you tackle the source of your tension directly. Perhaps there are impending layoffs in your place of work or you're dealing with a bad breakup. This is a great time to prepare and ease your mind about the days to come.
Reach out to family and friends so you can discuss what is weighing on your mind. A close support system can do wonders for helping you put troubles in perspective, and can help keep your mind off the negative things in your life.
Making an appointment with a therapist or joining an organized support group is another way to gain coping skills for your stress or anxiety. They are better equipped to assist you and can be a great place to share your challenges if you’d prefer not to discuss them with relatives or friends. Remember, you don’t have to overcome your stress alone and you don’t have to hold on to it. Find the right resources for you and get your life back.
If you haven’t tried meditating or yoga, now is a wonderful time to start. The basics of meditating are to relax and ease your mind, which works great for eliminating the stress source and the mental focus you spend on the pain.
Try sitting in a quiet dim room and sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and breathe deeply for approximately ten minutes. This time of relaxation is a great way to clear your mind of stress-related thoughts and to re-focus on the present. The more you meditate, the calmer your mind will become, reducing the chance of growing your stress and tension.
Try these yoga poses to help soothe stress neck pain.
Now that we’ve covered a few ways to address stress neck pain, let’s review:
- Stress neck pain is caused by tension in the muscles as a result of the body’s fight or flight response.
- To relieve this pain, stay active, by increasing your exercise and stretching daily.
- Indulge in a massage and take a hot shower whenever you experience a flare-up.
- Eliminate stressors with meditation and therapy.
Once you have tried some or all of these treatment options, you’ll rediscover life that’s pain free. Stress neck pain is a normal occurrence, but with these tips it doesn’t have to hold you back!