Did you know that neck pain is often the end result of coping with some sort of stress in life? Stress can come about from a physical injury, such as a car accident or a trauma sustained while playing some type of sporting event. However, it can also be due to some type of emotional distress that you are undergoing. Let’s take a closer look at how stress affects your neck and what you can do to help alleviate it.
How Stress Affects the Body
In addition to neck pain, stress brings about a number of physical and emotional disorders, such as:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Immune system malfunctions
- Increased vulnerability to infections
- Heart attacks
- Viral disorders ranging from the common cold to herpes to AIDS and some cancers
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Skin disorders: rashes, hives, atopic dermatitis
- Gastrointestinal disorders: GERD, IBS, peptic ulcers, ulcerative colitis
- Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders
What are Some Common Signs of Stress?
- Frequent headaches, jaw pain, and clenching
- Grinding teeth
- Stuttering or stammering
- Trembling hands or lips
- Neck pain, back pain, muscle spasms
- Sweating and sweaty hands and feet
- Trouble swallowing, dry mouth
- Frequent sickness – colds and infections
- Rashes, itching
- Allergy attacks
- Nausea, stomach pain
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Frequently sighing or trouble breathing
- Panic attacks
- Heart racing, chest pain
- Frequent urination
- Anxiety, worry, guilt, or nervousness in excess
- Mood swings
- Loss of or increased appetite
- Problems with concentration
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Crying spells
- Feeling worthless
- Nervous habits, fidgeting
- Overreactions to mild annoyances
- Obsessive-compulsive behavior
- Reduced productivity at work
- Talking fast or mumbling
- Social withdrawal
- Being suspicious of others
- Increased smoking or alcohol use
- Impulse buying or gambling
So, now the question is: How does this affect the different areas of the body, including neck pain?
How Key Body Systems React to Stress
- The musculoskeletal system: When under stress, muscles react by tensing up. This can lead to tension headaches, neck pain, migraines, and other muscle problems.
- The nervous system: Whether your stress is physical or psychological, the body begins to preserve its energy resources to fight off the threat it feels. This known as the fight or flight response, causing the adrenal glands to release cortisol as well as adrenaline. These are hormones that make the heart beat faster, change the digestive process, boost glucose levels in the blood, and raise blood pressure. Once the body perceives that the crisis is past, these functions usually return to normal.
- Cardiovascular system: Acute or mild stress – such as being stuck in rush hour traffic – can increase your heart rate and make the heart contract harder. The blood vessels responsible for directing blood to the larger muscles of the body and to the heart are made to dilate. This increases the amount of blood pumped to these body parts. This can lead to inflammation and a possible heart attack.
- Respiratory system: Stress makes you breathe faster and harder which may lead to hyperventilating and bring about a panic attack.
- Gastrointestinal system:
- Esophagus: Stress can make you eat much more or much less food than normal. You may also be inclined to smoke or drink more alcohol. This can lead to heartburn or acid reflux.
- Bowels: Digestion is affected and the proper nutrients may not be absorbed in your body. How quickly food moves through the body is impacted. As a result, you may have constipation or diarrhea.
- Stomach: You may have butterflies, nausea, or even pain. Sometimes you may vomit if it is severe stress.
- Reproductive system: In women – stress can cause absent, irregular, or more painful periods. Sexual desire may be reduced. In men – extra cortisol produced by stress can affect the reproductive system and impair testosterone and sperm production, along with impotence.
- Endocrine system:
- Liver: When cortisol and epinephrine are released, the liver automatically makes more glucose – a type of blood sugar that gives you energy for fight or flight during an emergency.
- Adrenal glands: The brain sends signals to the hypothalamus to create cortisol, adrenal medulla, and epinephrine – the stress hormones.
This shows just what a devastating effect stress has on the entire body. It is easy to see how neck pain can be related to coping with stress on a daily basis. What is the best thing to do for stress and also neck pain?
Neck Pain Relief Park Ridge
Finding Relief for Neck Pain Naturally
One thing that is vital for keeping stress and neck pain at bay is to regularly exercise. This causes chemicals to be produced within the body that counteract the negative effects of stress. Getting enough sleep is also vital. Up to 8 hours a night is recommended. It is also important to manage your time properly. Prioritizing items on your list of things to do can help reduce your stress levels.
To care for your neck pain properly, it is a good idea to visit an Atlas Orthogonal doctor. We can examine you and see if your neck pain is coming from a neck misalignment due to an accident or injury. If this is the case, we use a very gentle and precise method that helps the bones of the upper cervical spine to move back into place naturally without the need to pop or crack them. At this point, the healing properties of the body begin to repair any damage done by the misalignment. This can help ease the muscles of the neck and decrease neck pain. Most of our patients report this is true and are very pleased with the outcome in only a few visits.