Stress can present itself in various areas throughout your body, such as tight muscles, emotional frustration, headaches, and fatigue. Stress, in general, can take a toll on your physical body, especially in your neck or back. Unfortunately, when you have a combination of physical and emotional stress mixed with physical pains in your neck, back or shoulder, it can encourage fatigue, chronic irritability, and possibly even depression. Even worse, stress may not only increase or encourage chronic pain, but it can also hinder your recovery from an injury.
The Stress Response
Stress response is a combination of various emotional and physical components that tell your body to either run or fight when it is faced with danger (known as the fight or flight response). Once your brain has been alerted to possible danger, a variety of neurotransmitters, such as cortisol, adrenaline, and other hormones are released to prepare your body to react to the danger. When your fight or flight response is activated, several physical changes occur, including rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, increased blood pressure and tense muscles. When these changes occur repeatedly, the result is irritated nerves and body aches and pains. When the reaction to stress happens in small spurts, it works well at protecting you from harm. However, problems can start to occur if you experience chronic stress.
How Does Stress Trigger Pain in the Neck, Shoulder and Back?
Stress may not be the primary cause of pain in your neck, back or shoulder, but it can make your pain worse. When your body’s stress response gets activated, the fight or flight response causes your body to become tense. Each time you become stressed, it causes your blood vessels to enlarge for oxygen to be delivered faster. It also causes you to tighten and clench the muscles in your jaw, neck, and shoulders, as well as restricting movement of your shoulders and neck and increases the tension in the muscles (trapezius) that run across the top of your back. Eventually, this “restriction” causes pain. The more often your stress response is activated, the tighter your muscles will get and the more pain you will experience.
Unfortunately, stress and body aches and pains are a vicious cycle. Stress causes you to worry and tighten up, and the more you worry and the more your muscles tighten, the more pain you have, which ultimately increases your stress. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help reduce your stress and ultimately your stress-related pain. For example, learning stretching and breathing techniques, getting plenty of sleep, eating a healthy diet and doing moderate exercise can help to reduce stress and relax tight muscles.
If you are experiencing pain in your neck, shoulders or back, contact us at Capital City Neurosurgery today for a consultation.