Pain caused by stress or anxiety can be a pain in the neck (literally!). Since the average human head weighs about 15 pounds, the muscles in the neck are already strained on a regular basis. Add some physical or emotional stress to the mix, and you have the perfect recipe for chronic, unceasing neck pain. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to stop that from happening.
What Causes the Neck to Hurt When You’re Stressed or Anxious?
Pain is typically caused by an automatic reaction in the musculoskeletal and nervous systems after the body experiences trauma. However, stress-related pains in the neck are usually the result of emotionally-driven anxiety, which affects the primary muscles and nerves running through the spine, shoulders, and neck.
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Becoming so stressed out or anxious that you begin to tense up could cause harm to your body, even if only temporarily. Meanwhile, long-term tension could create a snowball effect that might lead to chronic neck or back pain. Because of the potentially damaging effects that stress can have on the body, it’s reasonable to consider neck pain remedies before the situation gets out of hand.
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Top 5 Stress-Related Neck Pain Remedies
Most physical therapists advise self-care for minor stress-related neck pain, including emotional coping strategies, dietary changes, and posture correction techniques. Taking an active role in neck pain treatment can help you get back to your routine more quickly. In the meantime, try one of these other highly effective neck pain relief methods before you call a doctor or chiropractor:
- Get a Gentle Massage
One of the best ways to decrease the amount of pain in your neck is to massage the muscles that are most irritated. Letting someone else do the massaging for you can reduce the amount of strain experienced. Moreover, adding hot or cold compresses can provide quick relief during a tender rub down.
- Stretch It Out
Stress-related pain may go away more quickly if you stretch out the muscle running from your lower back to the top of your neck. Several effective stretching exercises come highly recommended by doctors and chiropractors. You can do these workouts in the comfort of your own home and without the need for specialized equipment.
- Try Doing Yoga
Whether you join a class or do poses in your living room, yoga can help relieve tension, ease muscle pain, and reduce stress. Research shows that just a few minutes of yoga can drastically improve your overall health and your ability to cope with stress.
- Stop the Unhealthy Habits
Smoking cigarettes may be harmful for obvious reasons, but drinking caffeine before bed may have some underlying effects you’re unaware of. Pre-sleep stimulants can create undue tension in your nervous and musculoskeletal system, resulting in stress-related neck pain even if you’re always in a good mood.
- Exercise the Pain Away
Moderate exercise has numerous health benefits, and it can also decrease the pain in your neck if you do the right workouts. Time in the gym can decrease your cortisol levels, reduce inflammation, and relieve pain in the neck, back, and shoulders within a single session.
However, these exercises can also do the opposite if you overdo them at the gym. This exercise is best overseen by a physical therapist.
NOTE: If you cannot get a handle on your emotional well-being and it is causing more than moderate-to-severe neck pain, consult your doctor right away.
Jill Zwarensteyn is the editor for Sleep Advisor and a certified sleep science coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.
Based in Los Angeles, she is an experienced writer and journalist who enjoys spending her free time at the beach, hiking, reading, or exploring new places around town.
She’s also an avid traveler who has a personal goal of being able to successfully sleep on an airplane someday.
Dr. Loy Anderson combines her 25 years’ experience in western medicine with the intuitive power of functional medicine to provide the best of both worlds.
Dr. Anderson recognizes that traditional medical care is excellent at dealing with acute issues and health emergencies. Still, after treating chronic disease for decades, she noticed her patients never really got well. Now, through her own practice, Thriven Functional Medicine, she helps patients tackle root issues and provides the tools necessary to achieve radiant, vibrant health.