What Are The Stress Containers
If excess stress is becoming almost impossible to avoid, the million-dollar question is: How do we best deal with it? As a structural integration and alignment specialist, my work is very hands onIve spent more than fifteen years in my lab, working intimately with people, observing and kinesthetically feeling the effects of excess stress on the body, spirit, and ultimately lives of my clients. One thing Ive discovered is that the effects of chronic stress generally show up in five specific areas of the body. I call these areas the stress containers because theyre where stress gets stuck, congests, and intensifies and where it gets literally contained within the body. The good news is twofold: We all have the ability to build awareness around how we react or respond to stress, and we can all take steps to eliminate stress thats being stored in these containers within the body.
The five areas are the jaw/neck/face, the shoulders/heart, the diaphragm/lungs, the stomach/gut, and the pelvic floor/hips. What Ive observed in literally thousands of clients is that stuck stress manifests itself in blockages, pain, tension, and rigidity in the fascia or connective tissue it can actually be felt as I work on these parts of the body.
Heres a video to introduce the series that follows about how to release stress from the major areas where it gets stuck:
Relieving Stress: Mind Over Muscle
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YOU ARE SITTING AT YOUR DESK finishing an important report. You have been working on it for two months, and it is due in 30 minutes. You feel that you need at least another week to finish. Your boss is screaming in the next office he is already in a foul mood. ”This is it,” you say to yourself, ”I can’t take it anymore. I’ll run away and live in Tahiti. Or maybe I’ll just look for another job.”
As you sit frozen at your desk, strange aches and pains creep up on you. Your head is pounding, you have a crick in your neck, your jaw and face feel stiff, your shoulders are cramped and tense. Your body is in gridlock.
Muscle problems like these brew in a zone of the body with the shoulders at its base and the forehead at its peak – the tension triangle. Muscles in this area react dramatically to psychological pressure: the brow furrows, the jaw clenches, the neck tightens and the shoulders rise.
When muscles tighten from severe stress – the kind that makes your heart race, your skin perspire and your mouth dry up – they are part of a primitive physiological reflex that puts the body on guard for danger. Being prepared to spring at an enemy or retreat to safety no doubt did well for our earliest progenitors. But fight or flight is a less-than-elegant response to the psychological wars waged in the workplace.
Once relaxed, you are in better shape to cope with that deadline and your boss.
Stress Impacts Our Reproduction
The reproductive system, for both men and women, can be affected. It can:
- reduce the count of healthy sperm or their proper formation
- inhibit the ability to become pregnant
- create infections of the genitalia or reproductive system
- increase depression in new mothers,
- and increase the severity of symptoms for perimenopausal or menopausal women.
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How Stress Adds To Neck And Shoulder Pain
The body is wired to handle small spurts of stress. In small doses, stress can help an individual accomplish tasks, steer clear of danger, dodge a cold and experience improved cognitive function. According to an article by Time, eustress or positive stress can also help enhance motivation, build resiliency, encourage growth and promote bonding. In itself, stress isnt all that bad what makes it detrimental to the body is length and frequency. When you are constantly exposed to physical and emotional stress, your body would be in continuous fight or flight mode, which can lead to chronic pain in multiple parts of the body such as the neck and the shoulders.
So how does stress contribute to neck and shoulder pain? Since stress is just as much of a physiological phenomenon as it is a psychological phenomenon, the body functions differently when under stress. For instance, the blood vessels in your large muscles dilate to allow faster oxygen delivery. Muscles along the neck, by the jaw, around the shoulders and at the top of the back tighten and clench, thereby restricting movement. A recent study also mentioned that chronic stress activates certain parts of the body, such as the nervous system, longer than they should be. Persistently stressed nerves and muscles not only amplify even the slightest pain. They also cause pain that is far more difficult to manage since it is not rooted from a single tangible cause.
Roll Out Your Back With A Golf Ball
While you’re stretching it out, you might want to also try taking a small ball like a golf ball to some of your tightest neck and shoulder spots, Singh says, dubbing it a “secret weapon” for upper body pain.
“Place the golf ball against a wall and then push your back into the ball,” she says. “Roll the ball around and gently massage your back against the ball. Its an immediate way to relieve tension in your neck and shoulders, and it also acts as a sort of acupressure therapy.”
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Whenever I Have A Knot In My Shoulder I Follow My Pts 2
Whether itâs from an intense day of strength training or from stress , Iâll often wake up with a painful, piercing knot in my upper back. Or sometimes itâs lower, between my shoulder blade and spine you know the spot! The pain can radiate up my neck, which makes it hard to turn my head to the side. My PT has been able to work it out with dry needling, but I obviously canât run to her every time Iâm hurting. Hereâs the two-step remedy sheâs recommended I use at home to alleviate that sore and sensitive spot.
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Ways To Reduce Stress
According to Angela M. Bell, MD, the areas where youre likely to feel stress or anxiety-related tension are in your neck and shoulders. Over time, this can lead to chronic pain as well as other health issues.
To relax that muscle tension, your neck and shoulders respond well to stretching, yoga, relaxation, and other stress management methods. Here are some stretches and poses you can do daily to help relieve tension and tightness in your neck and shoulders.
The neck stretch is a deep stretch that eases tension inyour neck and helps improve your range of motion.
How to do it: Stand tall with yourleft arm at your side. Place your right hand on your head with your fingerspointing to the left side. Gently pull your head toward the right side untilyou feel a stretch in the left side of your neck. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds andreturn to center. Repeat on the other side. You can do it 2 to 3 times on eachside.
Clasped Neck Stretch
The clasped neck stretch targets your neck and upper-back muscles. It provides a deep stretch to that area of your body.
How to do it: Begin by sitting comfortably in a chair or on the floor, making sure your body is in proper alignment. Clasp your hands and bring both palms to the back of your head. Gently pull your head down bringing your chin towards your chest. Hold for at least 30 seconds, or 5 to 8 deep, diaphragmatic breaths in and out. Then slowly return your head to the initial position and release your hands.
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Forward Head Posture Video
Bookmark the next video by chiropractor Dr. Oliver, to practice how to correct forward head posture on a daily basis. His explanations are clear and simple. I offer one little addition to the advice given in the video: In the beginning, when Dr.Oliver demonstrates the chin tuck, his neck is rather over-curved. I therefore recommend doing the same chin tuck while at the same time lifting the head upwards as if being pulled up by a high ponytail . Other than that, follow the video to the end to really feel which muscles need to be trained for lasting improvement.
An Acupressure Mat And Pillow For A Daily Pain Relief Regimen You Can Really ~stick~ With
Promising review: “When you first lie down on this mat and pillow you think ‘no way I can put up with this,’ it really does hurt at first. But if you don’t concentrate on on all those sharp points sticking into you and actually relax you may see what the raves are about. You need to give it at least five to 10 minutes to begin feeling the benefits. It helps my back and my tension headaches, I actually push down into the pillow with my neck and move my neck into several positions. After about 10 minutes of use you begin to feel a warming sensation that actually feels quite pleasant. It does leave your skin looking like a frozen hamburger patty for a little while.” Kindle Customer
Get it from Amazon for $19.99.
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Ways To Get Rid Of Shoulder Tension
Between travel, work and school, it’s no wonder so many women have recurring tension in their neck and shoulders. But you don’t necessarily need to spend 75 minutes in a restorative yoga class to relax those taut muscles in your upper body. Instead, grab a few stretches at the office, on the plane or in your Psych 101 class with these chair yoga moves.
“Most all yoga poses can be modified with a chair,” says yoga instructor Sarah Starr, whose Gentle Chair Yoga with Sarah Starr DVD includes mini yoga routines for all of your major muscle groups. “Yoga from a chair allows you to unravel the stress and tension in your body before it turns to cramped muscles, strain and fatigue. Rather than having to wait until you get to your yoga mat or a studio, you can do a few simple stretches in the moment.”
To get started, try incorporating these 3 moves into your regular routine whenever you start feeling sore.
Neck and Shoulder StretchSitting tall, clasp your right hand beneath the right side of your chair. Reach your left hand to the earth at a diagonal. Relax the left ear to the left shoulder. Lean left until you feel a gentle stretch in the right side of your neck and top of your shoulder . Breathe and relax both shoulders away from the ears keeping your heart lifted. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
Stress And Our Bodies
The fact that how and what we think about affects the rest of our body is becoming increasingly accepted and understood. It is a bit difficult to ignore since we live it every day. When you are having a day where you feel sad, you move slower, find it harder to concentrate, and your body actually feels heavier and less coordinated.
The opposite is true when its a happy day. Then, youve got a bounce in your step, more energy, and your thinking is faster and sharper. These arent just coincidences. How we feel is directly correlated to how our bodies perform and react. It was designed that way.
An article in the American Psychological Association outlines the effects stress has on our bodies and virtually all of our systems:
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Apply A Warm Compress
Heat brings blood to your muscles, which helps soften the muscle tissue and allows it to stretch and relax.
- Place a blanket or towel between your skin and a heating pad thats not too hot.
- Dont leave the heating pad on for longer than 15 minutes.
- After waiting for 20 minutes, you can apply the compress for 15 more minutes.
What Causes Shoulder Tension
Lifestyle choices that encourage bringing the shoulders for sustained periods of time. Activities like typing and scrolling through Instagram are going to pull our shoulders forwards and result in not giving our shoulders enough downtime. When a muscle believes it should be in constant use, the signal to turn it off gets misheard and that leaves a tightness in an otherwise relaxed muscle. That tightness is a muscle knot.
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How Does Stress And Anxiety Cause Tension In Your Neck And Shoulders
When you experience a stressful event or a bout of anxiety, your muscles contract, sometimes forcefully. This is an automatic or reflex reaction. Its known as a stress response or fight or flight response.
Its your bodys way of gearing up to face a perceived physical threat that youll need to fight off or run away from. Along with muscle tension, you may also notice other physical symptoms when youre stressed or anxious, such as:
- a fast heart rate
- cold skin
Although your bodys stress response is designed to help you deal with physical threats, your body responds in the same way when the threat isnt physical. Your muscles may tighten up when youre stuck in traffic, dealing with pressure at work, or watching the news.
According to the American Psychological Association , your muscles and other organs may only relax again once the perceived threat has passed.
If stress is ongoing meaning the stressful situation doesnt seem to have a clear end your body may stay in a heightened state of readiness to face a threat. As a result, your muscles may stay tense and tight for much longer than they need to.
So Stretch The Neck & Shoulders As Often As Possible
However, both are horrible for the spine. Both will cause the muscles in your shoulders and neck to tense up. Even many of the jobs that allow for some variation throughout the day can leave you with stress and pain in these parts of your body.
One of the reasons is that constantly working these muscles without stretching them out from time to time will create problems. A good workout routine and lifestyle will ensure that all of your muscles are strong and flexible. If you only have one or the other, you will be in pain and possibly even at risk for more pain than you have right now.
When looking for ways that you can get rid of the stress, you need to find plenty of stretches that you can perform. However, this can be quite challenging when it comes to this part of your body. The reason for that is there are so many different muscles that are holding up your head that you will need to take advantage of multiple stretches in order to get all of them touched.
It is important to realize that you will not experience overnight reduction in your pain and stress. The fact is that it took years, maybe even decades, for this pain to accumulate. Taking some stretching classes is another way that you can go about getting the stress out of your tight neck and shoulder muscles.
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How To Relieve Neck & Shoulder Tension
Many Americans carry their stress in their neck and shoulders and complain of tension in their upper back. If you sit at a desk all day, chances are high that you have the same complaints. Unless you are conscious of how you are sitting, you probably are slouching for the majority of the day. The 8+ hours of sitting like this can wreak havoc on your body and its structure. Follow these tips as well to help relieve the aches and pains from poor posture.
Physical Therapy Physical therapy helps to stretch and strengthen the muscles in the upper back to alleviate pains. A physical therapist can also help you rehabilitate the area through electric stimulation, range of motion exercises and medical massage to reduce the tension and promote function and flexibility. They will also educate you on prevention exercises to help keep the pain at bay and re-educate your muscles to be in their proper form. Physical therapists will also show you how to practice good ergonomics at your desk.
Use Heat Therapy Applying heat to a certain area will soothe aches and relax muscles as it enables for greater blood flow and pain alleviation. Apply a heating pad on the affected muscles in 15-20 minute intervals. Amplify the results by performing light stretching afterwards. Taking a hot bath with Epsom salts also helps soothe the sore muscles.
Stress Can Make You Look Older
Premature ageing is a key indicator of stress. And its not just because of the eyebags from a lack of sleep. Stress has been scientifically proven to reduce the length of telomeres, the structures on the end of chromosomes that make it more difficult for new cells to grow.
As such, stress can lead to the classic signs of ageing that you want to avoid as much as possible. Some of these signs include wrinkles, weak muscles and poor eyesight.
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