Neck Pain from Stress28 Jun 2014
Mental stress has always had its physical component. In fact, that’s what the stress response is: the visceral priming of the body to either fight or run away from a perceived danger. Less well recognized is that even chronic, unpleasant stress, the kind that’s so constant you consider it normal, can cause aches and pains that you might not attribute to emotions.
The source of stress-related pain lies in the brain, which, when you feel under the gun, triggers the release of cortisol, adrenaline and other hormones that prepare the body for action by, for example, increasing heart rate, blood pressure and respiration. Less noticeably, these hormones also make muscles tense up, which can cause aches and irritate nerves.
The body stress stored in the neck structures may cause pain and stiffness and an inability to fully turn the head. As the lower neck supplies the nerves to the arms, there may be pain or numbness in the shoulder, arm or hand. Muscles may be weakened, resulting in difficulty in grasping objects. The tension in the neck may cause headaches or pain in the face or jaw. There may be sensations of dizziness or nausea.
Controlling the Stress Response
Given that the person with high-frequency headache is under stress, there are useful approaches to managing the stress response to reduce feelings of anxiety, panic or helplessness. There are four basic aspects to the stress response: cognitive (thoughts and evaluations about your situation), emotional (associated feelings), physical (emergency bodily reactions), and behavioral (actions taken in response to your thoughts and feelings). These aspects are interrelated.
Give your neck muscles an all-around stretch one step at a time. First, while sitting erect in a chair, lower your chin to your chest, letting the weight of your head gently stretch tense muscles at the back of the neck.