Effective ways to relieve stress — and also relieve spinal pain

The terms “stress” and “tension” often go hand in hand, and for good reason. Stress is a common side effect of our ever-moving, ever-growing lifestyles that cause us to tense our muscles and shorten our breath. You may have experienced this when you are pushed for a deadline at work or stuck in traffic on your way to a meeting. Your hands tense, the muscles in your shoulders and back tense, and your breathing becomes less rhythmic and more shallow.

While this type of continual stress can cause mental stress and depression, it can also cause physical pain and symptoms, including neck pain, back pain and tension headaches. By clenching the muscles in your neck or back for extended periods of time, you risk inflammation of the muscle. This is coupled by a reduced amount of oxygen reaching your muscles because stress causes you to have shallow breathing. Without proper oxygen, your tense muscles build up lactic acid and can become inflamed. An inflamed muscle can easily trigger a nerve root in the neck or back, resulting in a severe tension headache up the back of your neck and into your head or painful back and shoulder aches from stress.

One of the most important things you can do for your mental and physical health is to learn to relax. In our fast-paced world, this is easier said than done, but if you put in a conscious effort every day to make time for something fun, you may notice a significant decrease in your daily stress level.

Ideas to reduce stress

While stress relief is ultimately a personal subject, there are a wide variety of different stress relief techniques and lifestyle changes to consider:

  • Athletics — With a physician’s permission, take up golf, kickball, jogging, walking or another sport that keeps you active and engaged.

  • Hobbies — Find a hobby that you enjoy, such as writing, doing puzzles or painting.

  • Family time — Spend some time with your family to take a break from the stresses of work.

  • Alone time — Sometimes a little time spent alone is necessary to gather your thoughts and take a deep breath.

  • Reading books — Reading a good book is extremely therapeutic and beneficial for the mind.

  • Taking a vacation — A much-needed vacation puts things into perspective and can be a great motivator when you return home.

  • Breathing exercises — Closing your eyes and taking full, deep breaths lowers your heart rate and is an excellent way to relieve stress in the short term. You can practice deep breathing techniques through beginner and restorative yoga classes, or by simply becoming aware of your breathing throughout the day.

Whatever you choose to make you less stressed, make sure you stick to it. Allowing yourself some alone time during the day, or at least some time for fun, can significantly reduce your stress level, which can consequently improve your mental and physical health.

For more information about how to reduce your stress or treat chronic neck and back pain, please contact our Care Team at Laser Spine Institute.