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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Could my neck pain be stress related? If so how can I lower my stress

    I sometimes get prolonged neck pains maybe lasting a day or two. I think they are stress related but not sure.
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    Geoff Walker

    Exercise Physiologist

    “Taking the Hustle Out Of Your Muscles”Sydney Massage Time practitioners are degree qualified Exercsie Physiologists practicing Remedial Massage and Soft Tissue Rehabilitation. This means you … View Profile

    Definitely. Stress can be either physical or psychological. They cause very similar repsonses. One of those responses is to increase the contraction levels in muscles, particularly the muscles of the shoulders, neck and face.

    An example of physical stress may be stubbing your toe on the corner of a lounge. You tense up, hop around, pull all sorts of faces, and say all sorts of things.

    From a psychological perspective, examples of stress include; seeing a horrifying incident, through to something as simple as time pressures associated with finishing a project at work. The closer you get to nearing your time limit, the greater your stress levels.

    Stress alone is a normal physiological reaction to your thoughts and life experiences. However, it is our individual responses to the things that stress us that is the key to managing the inevitable stressors that we will have in our lives. Some people see a spider and the stress alarm bells go crazy; other people see the same spider and will happily pick it up and play with it. Same spider, different responses.

    The first step to lowering your stress is to identify what is causing the stress. In your circumstance, it seems that some circumstance/s in your life is irritating you. Take steps to consider whether your work, your family life, your social life, or something else is causing stress.

    In my experince, most people have an innate knowledge or an idea of the thing/s that cause them stress.

    Once you have identified the thing/s causing the stress, consider whether it is manageable for you.

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    Dr Andrew Lim

    Chiropractor

    Andrew has a Masters in Chiropractic and his interest in Sports Chiropractic has led him to treat many athletes from junior to elite levels in … View Profile

    Stress, either physical or non-physical can effect the body in a very physical manner. Stress can effect the body on many levels including a neurological and hormonal level.
    Neurologically, during the stress response, or nervous system kicks into the ‘fight or flight’ mode, where the body prepares to either fight or take flight. Some of the changes in the body that take place during the fight/flight response are:
    increased blood to the muscles of your limbs
    decreased blood flow to your organ that are not involved in fight/flight i.e. digestive organs, genito-urinary system etc.
    Increased rate of breathing and heart rate
    Release of glucose from the liver
    Increased release of adrenaline

    On the hormonal level, the adrenal glands release the stress hormone, cortisol, during the stress response. Also adrenaline is released from the same gland. Compared to the neurological stress response, the hormonal stress response is slower to respond, but longer lasting.

    Prolonged states of stress i.e working long hours at work, relationship issues, workplace issues, financial problems etc can lead to constant states of stress and so the constant release of the chemicals and hormaones, particularly adrenaline can leave you feeling stiff and sore and fatigued. Over time this can also have other effects on your body like impaired immune system function, constantly feeling tired, depression, anxiety, sleeping disorders etc.

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    Edward is a registered Osteopath with clinical experience both in Sydney, Australia and in the U.K. Has has previosly held senior academic positions teaching Osteopathy … View Profile

    There is a relationship between stress and high-stress periods with pain and neck problems, but it is often multi-factorial. The neck can be under stress mechanically or you might have a history of injury. A high-stress environment, particularly workplaces or sedentary-type positions which involve a lot of computer use, can really flare the problem up and contribute to the pain. Lowering the stress varies- you've got to look at strategies that you can apply on a case-by-case basis. Look at all of the situations that you're involved with that might be contributing stress. There is also an osteopath test conducted frequently in clinics. We sit down with people for quite a long amount of time and go through the circumstances at which they work and their home- things that might be contributing to recurrent or chronic injuries. I think with stress particularly we see a lot of jaw and neck muscle tension issues. That seems to be a real relationship that I see in clinics there as well.

  • Gai Baker-Luz

    Psychologist

    I am a Registered Psychologist specialising in Relationship Counselling I have a Graduate Diploma in Couple therapy and enjoy working both with individuals couples and … View Profile

    Yes , if you are not allowing yourself time to rest and recouperate from life.
    Neck pain is common when people spend a long time at the computer or sitting for  prolonged periods.
    Ongoing worry exacerbates underlying stressful habits so giving yourself the opportunity to stop and reflect and make new choices is helpful.
    If neck pain is consistent and not relieved by rest a medical exam is essential.

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    Mary Antoney

    Psychologist

    Adult, Seniors and Older Persons Mental Health Psychotherapist. "Bulk Billing Psychologist Toowoomba", Private Patients, Mental Health Care Plans, Department of Veterans Affairs. As a Clinical … View Profile

    Often emotions are stored in our muscles as tension and we can habitually hold our body postures in a protective manner during emotinally or stress related situations; combined these factors lead to trigger points in the muscles that result in compression which our brain determines as pain. As a Psychologist I would assist you with identifying what issues you are becoming frustrated by and how to alter your thinking to a more useful way that allows lifes struggles to not affect you so much.  You would also be taught relaxation techniques and mindfulness strategies that have been demonstrated to be really effective when combined with CBT that helps you by challenging unhelpful thinking styles or schemas.

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    Kirsten Toll

    Speech Pathologist

    Over 20 years of experience, including international, in the assessment, rehabilitation and management of language, communication and swallowing disorders resulting from stroke, ABI or progressive … View Profile

    Intermittent neck pain can often be the result of TMJ disfunction (misalignment of the jaw joint or spasm of the muscles that hold it in position). Stress may often result in night time teeth grinding (bruxism) or in a tense jaw posture during the day. The result is often very painful, as the muscles in your neck are all connected. Ask your dentist to check your teeth for a balanced occlusion and signs of grinding. Consider having a night splint (dental plate) made. Check that you are able to open your mouth as wide as you normally can, if not, your facial muscles are likely to be in spasm.

    Be careful  opening too wide if you have pain. Place your tongue between your upper and lower front teeth ( as if gently biting your tongue) when ever you think of it, feel stressed or when falling asleep.

    Hope that is of some help.

  • James is passionate about osteopathy, it’s philosophy and works with facilitating the bodies innate drive for health and balance. He enjoys teaching patients about how … View Profile

    Simple answer is yes it is possible.

    As mentioned already tension in the jaw and shoulders has the potential to cause pain. Often during periods of stress we tend to shallow breathe and breathe through our upper ribs. This causes other muscle particularly those that attach to the neck to over work and fatigue. The build up of by-products of use causes changes in the bodies chemistry, if this information continues to come to the brain, it becomes worried and pain is the result.

    Stress can also up-regulate the system and make it highly sensitive so often we find relapses or pain increases when patients are stressed.

    Regardless of whether the stress is causing, worsensing or completely unrelated to your neck pain. There isn't anyone who isn't going to get benefit from reducing stress. Stress is however unavoidable and beneficial in small doses. Perhaps look at working out what are the stressful situations, people, workplaces etc are and it will give you a more direct way of addressing. Things like exercise, meditation, holidays are fantastic ways of reducing stress responses but you need to address what cause is to find a resolution.

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