Can Stress Cause Neck Pain?

One of the most common questions asked about neck pain is
whether stress can cause neck pain.  And
the short answer is, “yes!”

We know that stress-related pains in the neck and shoulders
are usually the result of emotionally driven tension and anxiety which can affect
the primary muscles and nerves running through the spine, shoulders, and neck. As
you tense up, cortisol levels also increase, resulting in inflammation. This
can add to the tightening of the surrounding muscles, and subsequently contributes
to increased neck and shoulder pain.

When our bodies are stressed, our endocrine
function is also affected. This is largely because stress involves what we know
as the “stress hormone” — cortisol.

In
addition to being the principle modulator of our body’s “fight or flight”
response, cortisol works with parts of the gut-brain axis to control mood,
motivation and fear. This means that during peak periods of stress, we tense
up, and become ready to spring into action, but prolonged periods of stress can
tax the muscles, causing a build-up of lactic acid and result in muscle
fatigue.

Studies have
demonstrated that when cortisol levels are elevated for extended periods of
time the adrenal system may also be adversely impacted.  We often see this referred to by a non-medical
term: “adrenal fatigue”. This term is applied to a collection of nonspecific
symptoms, such as body aches, fatigue, nervousness, sleep disturbances and
digestive problems, which could result in more serious conditions, if left
ignored.

The symptoms of adrenal fatigue are said to
include:

  • tiredness
  • trouble
    getting to sleep and waking up
  • craving
    salt and sugar
  • unexplained
    weight loss
  • reliance
    on stimulants such as caffeine
  • nonspecific
    digestive problems
  • muscle
    stiffness or pain

Making matters worse, prolonged stress not only makes our
neck, shoulder and back muscles tighten, but the pain from that experience can
trigger increased anxiety, which starts a cycle of stress-pain-increased stress
that becomes difficult to interrupt.

Strategies for dealing with neck pain from stress

Here are some steps that can help us manage our neck pain
from stress:

  • Massage
    therapy is one of the best ways to reduce pain in the neck. It can help push
    out some of the tension in our bodies and release some of the stress that
    causes this type of neck pain.
  • Taking
    a hot bath or shower can be soothing for tense muscles. Heat helps encourage
    the muscles to release tension.
  • Gentle
    neck stretches can loosen muscle tightness and assist range of motion for our
    neck.
  • Exercise
    can help releases endorphins, a hormone that generates feelings of happiness
    and well-being, reducing the anxiety and stress that accompanies neck pain,
    while strengthening and toning our muscles at the same time.
  • Supporting
    physical therapy with a scientifically-proven, functional foods-based protocol
    that encourages production of helpful fibroblast growth factors, to boost the
    body’s ability to heal itself will ensure the benefits from movement therapy,
    exercise and stretching last.
  • Yoga
    or meditation can help calm anxious thoughts and anxieties.

Understanding that our health is a priority and focusing on
what’s most important is essential.  These
strategies can reduce some of the effects of muscle tension.

Our unique program teaches you how to target the source of pain to achieve relief so you can:

  • Sleep well through the night
  • Be well-rested and focused at work
  • Have the energy and desire to exercise
  • Engage in life on your terms

We recommend allowing our pain specialists to talk with you about directed comfort strategies, focusing on the nerves in the neck, shoulders and spine.

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