With large workloads and busy schedules, many Americans grapple with stress on a daily basis. Because of the body's natural fight-or-flight response, it reacts to stress, worry, or anxiety in a number of ways. While some people are plagued with fatigue, indigestion, or moodiness, others experience shoulder, neck, or upper back pain as a result of tension or tightness in various muscles. Just like a squirrel has a favorite stash for storing chestnuts, you may have specific muscles that store stress.
Ways to Alleviate Stress-Related Shoulder, Neck, and Upper Back Pain
It stands to reason that relieving stress may help relieve the pain associated with it. Try these tips for alleviating stress-related shoulder, neck, and upper back pain.
4-7-8 Deep Breathing Method: The next time you feel tension or tightness in a "storage area," stop what you are doing, sit upright, and practice the deep breathing method recommended by holistic health expert, Dr. Andrew Weil. With the tip of the tongue held just behind the upper front teeth, inhale deeply through the nose to a mental count of four. Hold the breath to a count of seven, and exhale through the mouth to a count of eight, continuing to keep the tongue in place (this will create a whooshing sound). Start with three or four breaths for the first several weeks, and over time, increase to eight if desired.
Self-Massage: Muscle tension develops in areas with weak blood and energy flow. At the onset of tightness or pain in the neck or shoulders, use your hands to gently massage the muscles. Massage helps to improve blood flow and free up energy. A licensed massaged therapist can people who experience upper back pain in hard-to-reach areas.
Exercise: Aerobic exercise like jogging, cycling, or swimming offers a powerful prescription for stress relief. In addition, studies show that exercise releases natural opiates like endorphins and other compounds that offer temporary pain relief. Recent studies show that regular exercise may also offer a greater longer-term tolerance for pain.
While you may not be able to control everyday stressors, you do have some control over how your body responds to them. Incorporating deep breathing, self-massage, and exercise into your routine helps prevent and release stored stress, keeping the body free of neck, shoulder, and upper back pain.