According to the American Psychological Association, 75% of adults reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress in the past month, and since stress and pain are closely linked, it’s no wonder that neck pain is the number three source of chronic pain and that more than 25% of us are affected by it. How can stress contribute to neck pain, and how can you reduce stress to find neck pain relief?
This is Your Neck on Stress
When we experience stress, our brains jump into action to trigger our sympathetic nervous system, which enables our bodies to react with a “fight or flight” response even when the stressor is not an actual emergency. The resulting surge of hormones prepares our muscles for quick reaction by tensing them, and tense muscles that don’t ever relax eventually lead to fatigue and pain. There are dozens of muscles in and around the structure of the neck, and since our days are full of stress, it makes sense that our necks would end up full of pain. What steps can you take to ease stress neck pain?
When neck muscles get tight, we tend to roll our heads around to try stretching them out. Unfortunately, that can have the opposite effect of what you’re expecting. When you stretch muscles, you actually lengthen them past the point of their inherent length-tension relationship, which in turn signals the central nervous system to tighten things up to “protect” you. Ease up on stretching when tension strikes and it might keep neck pain from getting worse.
Control Your Breath
Breath control exercises are an excellent, under-utilized method for relieving stress, and simply taking a series of deep and slow inhales and exhales can give you the neck pain relief you need. Fast, shallow breathing is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system and triggers the fight or flight response, and deep, slow breaths do the opposite; measured breathing actually stimulates a calming reaction by the parasympathetic nervous system. Close your eyes and inhale to a count of five, then exhale to five and repeat until you feel more steady and calm.
Daily exercise may seem like the opposite of relaxing, but it not only helps to counter the sedentary lifestyle most adults have, Harvard Health reports that it reduces stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, and also stimulates the production of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Instead of sitting at your desk through lunch, get up and do some yoga poses or take a walk to find some stress and neck pain relief.
Meditation has been around for millennia, but it didn’t gain widespread popularity in the West until the 1990’s. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Pain Society gives Americans even more reason to work on their easy seat. The results showed that “meditation training significantly reduced pain when compared to the exercise group and pain-related “bothersomeness” decreased more in the meditation group as well.” The authors ultimately concluded that a meditation practice has unique benefits for producing pain relief but also for pain coping. Many short, guided meditations are available online and the results of a daily meditation practice can be truly life changing in terms of your stress and pain levels.
Does Stress Have You Rubbing Your Neck?
At Pain Stop North Phoenix, we can help reduce the stress in your life by providing responsible pain management solutions and emphasizing non-surgical and minimally invasive treatment programs to take care of your neck pain. Contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach to your care!