Most of us have probably experienced what is known as a “tension headache” at one time or another. Some people even deal with them regularly. Tension headaches get their name because they are often brought on by emotional stress, but stress can have many other effects on our bodies that can cause discomfort such as neck pain. As we tense up or hold tension when stressed, the neck muscles tighten and cause neck pain. Chronic neck pain can lead to fatigue, irritability, and depression if not managed properly.
While stress may not be the source of your neck pain, combined with physical components, it certainly can amplify the symptoms of an underlying issue. Studies have shown that stress directly correlates with how people experience pain, meaning people who are under a lot of stress may have amplified pain responses. By finding ways to manage stress yourself, you can drastically reduce your stress levels and neck pain naturally.
Here are a few things you can do on your own to help you deal with stress and get back to everyday activities:
- Exercise : Physical activity doesn’t just help strengthen muscles and increase blood flow. It can also be a very useful stress reliever. When the body is moving during exercise, endorphins are released, which relieves stress and reduces tension and neck pain.
- Positive thinking : Having a good outlook on life can drastically improve how you process typically stressful situations, reducing your overall stress and pain level.
- Healthy habits : Creating healthy habits within your lifestyle helps with managing stress. Eating healthy, reducing caffeine intake, and not smoking are just a few ways to develop healthy habits. Proper foods can reduce inflammation. Inflammation increases pain. Caffeine can lead to sleep problems, making you more irritable and stressed. Smoking decreases blood supply to your muscles. Reduced blood supply can increase pain, especially areas that hold tension, such as the neck.
- Relaxation : Adding techniques into your routine that promote relaxation can help to slow down a racing mind and promote a calm sense of being such as yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises. Just by practicing this 10-20 minutes a day can reduce chronic stress.
- Massage : Getting a gentle massage regularly is a great way to destress and relieve pain. Massage helps to move the flow of blood in muscles and tight areas. You may even want to have heat to your massage to further tension and pain relief.
Whatever steps you decide to incorporate to help manage stress, the important thing is that you act quickly. The sooner you can get back moving, the better chances you have to return to full activity. Research shows that the longer your neck pain persists, the less likely you are to recover from neck pain. Of course, if stress-related pain continues to worsen or lasts more than a few weeks, consult a physician to discuss your options for managing your stress and pain levels.