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Has Stress Become a Pain in the Neck?

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Dealing with stress is a fact of life, but when we can’t effectively manage the perceived demands on our time and resources, the pressure can build and the resulting strain has some pretty immediate effects on our thoughts, feelings and, not surprisingly, our bodies. Many people have experienced a “tension headache” when feeling overwhelmed, and neck pain from stress is just as prevalent and disruptive. How is stress related to neck pain, and what are some coping mechanisms to find stress and neck pain relief?

Stress and Your Neck

When it comes to stress, the brain can’t tell the difference between needing to run from a Saber Tooth Tiger and missing a credit card payment, so no matter which stressor you’re experiencing, it releases a variety of hormones to help. The “perceived danger” we’re in triggers increases in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing, and also tenses up our muscles so we’re ready to fight. In our day and age, those tightened muscles will be in the chest, arms, upper back, and neck as our shoulders creep up toward our ears at our desks, and fatigued and strained muscles lead to incredible, chronic neck pain.

Eliminating Stress Can Help

If you’re concerned that your stress levels are contributing to your chronic neck pain, there are a few things you can do to lighten that load and find some neck pain relief:

Take a Breather

Breathing is an unusual body function in that it’s both involuntary and voluntary, meaning that while it’s managed by the unconscious, we can take control at any point and change it. Controlled Breathing has been a staple of Eastern health practices for millennia, but became popular here in the 1970s when Dr. Herbert Benson’s book The Relaxation Response hit shelves. In it, he argues that controlling the breath triggers the parasympathetic nervous system to counter the sympathetic nervous system’s fight or flight response to daily stresses. Try it yourself the next time you feel neck pain in response to tension, by taking a few minutes to calmly and slowly breathing in and then out to a count of 5 seconds each.

Get Moving

In an annual American Psychological Association survey on the physical and mental impacts of stress, it was reported that “adults spend an average of 6.4 hours a day in sedentary activities,” with 45% of adults reporting between 6 and 12 hours or more sitting, lying or without much movement. Physical exercise will not only counter that build up of stress, it can also provide neck pain relief; Harvard Health explains that not only will exercise reduce stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, it will also stimulate the production of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Instead of heading directly to the couch after work, take a walk or try a yoga class first.

Try A Massage

According to a study by Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, massage can be an incredibly effective method for treating neck pain if it’s done professionally and for the right amount of time. Senior researcher Karen Sherman determined that having a 1-hour massage, three times weekly for the first four weeks of treatment seemed to provide the most neck pain relief. Compared to those who got no massage, “people getting massage three times a week were almost five times as likely to have a clinically meaningful improvement in function and over twice as likely to report a clinically meaningful decrease in pain,” she said.

Finding Yourself In Need of Neck Pain Relief

At Health Star Clinic, our qualified team of medical doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, and nurses will work together to determine the most effective course of action that helps you find lasting neck pain relief and healing at the source of the problem. Contact us today to get your own personalized treatment plan!

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