Mental stress or anxiety is an integral part of the modern lifestyle for most people. More so for working mum who are constantly juggling and multitasking work, kids home, work travels, meetings, sitting for long hours at the desk, etc. But this mental stress or anxiety can be the cause of spinal (back & neck) and joint pain. It can either cause pain in the body or lead to an increase in the old pain that was already present in the body. In this blog, lets discuss four ways in which mental stress or anxiety can make your whole body hurt or lead to pain.
Firstly, Adrenaline is a hormone that is released every time you are under stress or anxious. It has the effect of constricting or narrowing your blood vessels. This can lead to insufficient amount of blood flowing to the muscles and they go into tension or tightness/spasm which can create pain.
Secondly, stress causes the body to go into a fight or flight mode. With continuous or repeated stress , the body stays under constant tension, leading to pain. This is similar to holding your fist in a clenched position. After sometime the hand and fingers will start to feel fatigued and pain will set in gradually. A common example of this manifestation of stress or anxiety is seen in the tension triangle, where the muscles of the shoulder head and jaw area go into spasm. This muscle tightness can then lead to other problems such as tension headaches, jaw pain, cervicogenic headaches, etc.
Thirdly, anxiety or stress produces another hormone in the body, known as cortisol. Cortisol is required in small quantities for the body to function but when excessive cortisol is produced it can lead to increased inflammation, which in turn causes increased pain.
Fourthly, when you are stressed or anxious, your posture changes. This is commonly seen as rounded shoulders. In order to balance your head on these rounded shoulders you need to poke your head out, leading to a forward head posture. The muscles in the chest area are more contracted than normal and those on the upper back are lengthened. These poor postures change the length tension relationship between the muscles leading to pain.
There are many ways to combat this stress or mental anxiety, but the easiest one is movement. If you are a busy working mom and don't have spare time for movement it can be done while sitting at your desk as simple desk based exercises. You can find more about them HERE.
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