The shoulders and neck are the areas where you tend to feel anxiety or stress-related tension. Stress tension in the neck is a common complaint that can contribute to chronic pain and other health issues.
Fortunately, there are several stress management strategies that you can employ to alleviate stress tension in your neck and shoulders. This article discusses how to reduce stress tension in neck and shoulders and explores some stress management techniques that can help calm your body and mind.
How Anxiety and Stress Cause Tension In The Shoulders And Neck
When you have an anxiety attack or undergo a stressful event, your muscles contract, and at times, this contraction may be forceful. This reflex reaction is referred to as a “fight or flight” response or stress response.
This response is your body’s way of preparing you to react or retreat when you’re facing a perceived physical threat. Besides muscle tension, other physical symptoms you may also experience when you are anxious or stressed include:
- Cold skin
- Quick, shallow breathing
- A fast heart rate
Even though the stress response of your body is designed to help you manage physical threats, the way your body responds when there’s no physical threat is the same. You may experience muscle tension when you’re watching the news, dealing with work pressure, or stuck in traffic. As stated by the American Psychological Association (APA), your organs and muscles may only relax and return to their original state when you’re no longer facing perceived physical stress.
Suppose there’s ongoing stress (where there seems to be no clear end to the stressful situation). In that case, your body may remain in a sensitive state in readiness to face a physical threat. For this reason, your muscles may remain tight and tense for much longer than they should.
According to the American Psychological Association, ongoing stress tension in the shoulder and neck can cause more severe issues like tension headaches and migraine, body aches, and shoulder and back pain.
How To Reduce Stress Tension In Neck And Shoulder
It is not always easy to prevent stress-related shoulder and neck tension, especially in the busy world we find ourselves in today. However, some strategies and techniques may help alleviate stress tension and reduce discomfort and pain.
Here are five simple methods you can use to help relieve tightness and tension in your shoulder and neck.
This involves a deep stretch that alleviates stress tension in your neck and enhances your range of motion. Follow the guide below to perform a neck stretch exercise.
- Stand upright with your arms at your sides.
- Place your left hand on your head and gently pull your head towards your left shoulder. You should feel a stretch on the right side of your neck.
- Hold for 15 50 30 seconds before you return to the starting position.
- Repeat these procedures on the right side
- Perform up to 3 rounds on either side
This exercise gently alleviates stress in both your neck and shoulders.
- Stand on your feet with your arms at your sides
- Bring your chin towards your chest by lowering your head
- Tilt your head gently to the left side and hold for about 30 seconds. The right side of your neck should feel a stretch.
- Return your head to the center, and lift it to go back to the starting position
- Repeat these steps before you change sides.
- Repeat the exercise 5 times on either side.
Balasana (also known as child’s pose) is a popular yoga pose that can help alleviate your back and neck pain and help you relax.
- Get on your knees with your knees hip-width apart and your toes together. Then place your palms on your thighs.
- Lower your torso in between your knees while breathing out. With your palms flat on the floor, extend your torso alongside your arms.
- Hold this position for 1 to 1:30 minutes. Relax your neck and shoulders and focus on your breath.
- Return to your starting position.
- Repeat these procedures up to 3 times.
Chakravakasana, also known as cat-cow, is another yoga pose that helps release tension in the neck, torso, and back by allowing you to stretch these areas.
- Knee on the floor with your palms flat on the floor. Keep your knees are beneath your hips and wrists beneath your shoulders.
- Inhale deeply and move into Cow Pose. Lift your chest and chin and drop your belly towards the mat. Lift your tailbone and head up toward the ceiling – without straining your neck. This is the Cow pose. Open your shoulders and chest and hold for a few seconds.
- Exhale deeply, round your back towards the ceiling, and engage your abs by pulling your belly towards your spine. Release your neck and tuck your chin towards your chest. This is the cat pose.
- Continue moving back and forth from Cow Pose to Cat Pose while connecting your breath to each movement. Exhale for Cat Pose and inhale on Cow Pose.
- Repeat these steps for at least ten rounds.
Thread The Needle
This is a stretch exercise that helps alleviate stress tension in the shoulders, neck, and back.
- Knee on the floor with your palms flat on the ground. Keep your knees are beneath your hips and wrists beneath your shoulders.
- Open your chest to the left while extending your left arm towards the ceiling. As you raise your hands, direct your gaze on it.
- Move your left arms towards the mat, under your chest. Support your weight by keeping both knees and right arm grounded.
- Slide your left arm to the right side of your body, allowing your left shoulder to rest on the mat. Your torso will rotate with every movement, and as you look to your right side, your left shoulder will touch the floor.
- Hold for at least 20 seconds and go back to your starting position.
- Repeat these movements on the right side.
- Perform about three rounds on each side.
Other Neck And Shoulder Tension Management Strategies
One of the best ways to relieve stress tension in the neck and shoulders is by performing Yoga. A study shows that a nine-week of Yoga led to functional improvements and pain relief in people with neck pain. However, there are some other techniques you can rely on for prevention or relief of stress tension in the neck. Some of the methods include:
- At night, use a pillow that is designed to keep your neck and head aligned while providing good support for your neck.
- Every hour, get up for a few minutes and move away from your workstation.
- Examine your posture while at your workstation – keep your ears, shoulders, and hips in a straight line.
- Adjust your work desk. Make sure your computer or monitor is at your eye level to avoid neck strain.
- Soak yourself in a warm tub. For extra relaxation, add some drops of aromatherapy.
- Spend some minutes performing a self-massage.
- Apply a warm compress to the tensed and tight area.
Tightness and tension in the shoulders and neck region are a common sign of anxiety and stress. Fortunately, the shoulders and neck’s stress tension responds well to several stress management strategies, including Yoga, targeted stretching, and other relaxation techniques.
Moreover, this article has shown you how to reduce stress tension in the neck and shoulders some simple stress management techniques that you can employ to calm your body and mind. However, suppose your shoulders or neck pain is severe or does not improve with the techniques mentioned above. In that case, you should consult with your doctor.