Stress Feeds Pain: Neck and Shoulder

Neck and shoulder pain is a common ailment with many potential causes. Regardless of the cause of your shoulder and neck pain, stress has been found to make existing pain worse. Not only do the hormones and chemicals involved in the stress response increase pain sensitivity, but stress also increases muscle tension in the neck and shoulders and can cause increased pain and soreness of an existing injury. This increased muscle tension in the head, neck and shoulders can also cause headaches, called tension headaches, which can become a chronic problem in some cases.

Managing stress levels is important in reducing neck and shoulder pain. It may be difficult to manage stress levels, especially if your stress comes from your job or another integral part of your life that is difficult to get away from, but it is important for your overall health to keep stress minimized. Stress is not just a mental problem. Stress has many negative physical effects on the body; not only does it put a person more at risk for developing chronic back, neck or shoulder pain, but it also has a negative effect on the cardiovascular system and a person’s risk of developing heart disease.

Lifestyle changes that can help minimize stress include taking some time to do things that you like to do, eating healthy food and exercising. If you have an injury and you are unsure which exercises are safe to do with an injury, talk to your doctor. A doctor or physical therapist can help you find exercises that are safe and encourage recovery. Sometimes getting a massage can help with neck and shoulder pain and also decrease levels of stress. In some cases, people who have difficulty managing their stress levels due to anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions may benefit from treatment from a mental health professional, which can include counseling and medication. Talk to your doctor if you are having difficulty controlling your stress and pain levels. It is important that both problems are addressed, as they are intimately related: Stress increases pain levels, and dealing with chronic pain increases stress levels.


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