Daily Life

5 Expert Hacks to Ease Stress-Related Aches & Pains

Stress can quite literally be a pain in our neck.

By: Nicole Lippman-Barile Ph.D., N.T.P.

Ever leave your workday with a painful kink in your neck, or your shoulders feel super tight after a stressful day? Turns out, stress-related aches and pains are a real thing and something many of us are likely far too familiar with. 

The truth is that psychological stress can affect our physical bodies in many different ways. In fact, stress is a biological reaction that affects almost every system in our body. As humans, we have adapted to experience stress, as small doses of stress can help us build resilience and adapt to changes. It’s a different story when stress becomes frequent and chronic.

Stress may be psychological, chemical, and physiological, and it is always biological. Whatever the source of stress, it creates specific changes that occur in the body. Being familiar with some of the physical presentations of stress that occur for you will allow you to understand how you personally experience stress, giving you the opportunity then to address it by practicing stress management. 

Here are some ways in which stress can cause physical aches and pains in the body as well as what you can do to help it.

How Stress Causes Aches & Pains

Stress can cause pain and tightness in your muscles, as well as muscle spasms. When you experience feelings of stress, your muscles tend to tighten. Holding this tension in our bodies without realizing it can later cause muscle pain and soreness, almost as if you just worked out. This can be unconscious as well since you may be exclusively focusing on the thing that is causing you stress without realizing what is happening in your body as a result. Stress can also trigger tension headaches, as well as tightness in the neck and jaw areas. 

5 Ways to Combat Stress-Related Aches & Pains 

Deep Breathing 

While it may sound simple, deep breathing is often an underutilized and free stress-busting technique! It’s also something that’s available to us at any time during the day, and it can be a valuable tool when you start to feel tense. 

Practicing deep breathing throughout the day can help your overall body relax as well as help to decrease the feeling of stress. 

How to Practice Deep Breathing

To ensure you are doing it correctly, place one hand over your belly and one hand over your chest. Breathe in and expand your stomach, feeling your hand rise as you inhale. As you exhale, you will feel your hand move down with your stomach. The hand on your chest should remain still throughout. Deep breathing is about expanding through your abdomen. You can find much relief simply by practicing 30-60 seconds of deep breathing throughout the day.

Need a guided deep breathing practice to get started? Try this FitOn Anytime Breath practice with DeAndre. 

Take Inventory of Your Body

Do a quick scan of your body to assess if you are indeed holding physical tension without consciously realizing it. Start with the top of your head and focus on the muscles in your face, your brows, your jaw, then gradually move down to your shoulders, arms, chest, and abdomen, so on and so forth until you get to your feet. Focus on the feeling of your muscles when you are putting your attention to these muscle groups and consciously relax them if you feel they are tensed. 

This exercise helps you to become more mindful about how your body feels and helps you to eventually learn how to use the cue of physical tension in your muscles to then relax them. 

For a guided practice, try this FitOn Body Scan meditation with Vytas. 

Exercise & Stretching

If you are in pain, you would think that what you need most is rest and relaxation. However, research shows us something very different. Exercise and stretching actually help to relieve pain, including many different forms like aerobic, strength training and stretching. In fact, a sedentary lifestyle actually increases your risk of developing chronic pain. It’s wise to be careful since too little exercise is not beneficial, while too much can aggravate symptoms. 

Consider pressing play on one of these quick FitOn stretches to get started. 

RELATED: 5 Simple Stretches if WFH Has Your Muscles in Knots

Tension Release 

The way we carry stress in our bodies can lead to discomfort and injury. This tension release practice will leave you feeling lighter and at ease.

Stretch & Feel Good 

Open up your joints and lengthen your muscles with this feel good stretch which will help you take away tension in your body and feel your best. You deserve it.

Stretch to Restore 

Mobility, flexibility, injury management and relaxation all-in-one. This is the perfect complement to your cardio and strength training routine designed to keep you moving smoothly and pain free.

Epsom Baths

Baths can be inherently relaxing for many reasons, but Epsom salt provides magnesium, a powerful muscle relaxant that can help you feel relief from any physical aches and pains. 

You can also consume more foods that contain magnesium like kiwis and leafy greens, but Epsom baths are a more direct and powerful way to get the more immediate benefits because of how absorbable it is when we experience it in this form. 

Consume Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Consuming spices like turmeric and ginger help to provide physical relief because they act as anti-inflammatory agents in the body. You can add these spices to your food or have them in tea form, an excellent way to ensure you are consuming these powerful compounds to find physical relief. 

Here are some other delicious ways to add ginger and turmeric to your diet. 

  • Add ground or grated ginger to stir fry’s 
  • Mix ground turmeric into soups 
  • Blend turmeric into a smoothie 
  • Sip on a mug of turmeric milk 

Fitting Stress Management Into Your Day 

Managing stress as well as aches and pains that result from stress are about practicing regular stress management techniques. That way, you are acting preventatively, not just reacting when you finally realize you are experiencing stress and associated aches and pains. 

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