Fight the Holiday Stress… On Your Neck
For many, December is the most stressful time of the year. You might be preparing for the end-of-year review at the office or getting your house ready for winter. Add to that the cooking, baking, cleaning, decorating shopping, traveling, and countless other activities surrounding the holidays, and you can easily find yourself feeling overwhelmed.
Even if you don’t consciously feel the stress, sometimes your body is telling you that you need a break. You might initially dismiss neck pain as the result of sleeping awkwardly or turning your head too quickly, but after a few days of constant pain, you should reconsider the source of the discomfort.
Stress-induced neck pain is either triggered or increased by psychological or emotional factors. Built up tension takes its toll on your body, and you often feel tightness or spasms in your neck. In some cases, an injury strains the neck muscles, but the pain continues for days or weeks afterward as stress caused by the injury builds. Chronic neck pain can also cause factors that add more stress to your life such as irritability, fatigue, and even depression.
Regardless of the initial cause, stress-induced neck pain is not “all in your head,” and the symptoms are real. By focusing on treating both your mind and body, you can avoid long-term issues.
- Stretch your neck. Regular stretching can loosen muscles, increase blood flow, and maintain or expand your range of motion.
- Feel-good endorphins from moving your body will provide mental relief as you strengthen and condition your neck. Ask your doctor for appropriate neck pain exercises so that you don’t cause more strain.
- Treat yourself to a massage. In addition to helping you relax, a gentle massage eases tension by helping blood flow to sore muscles. Alternating heat and cold application also helps relieve pain.
- Learn relaxation techniques. Activities such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and even art or music can help you slow down and relieve stress.
- Develop a support system. When you feel like you have too much on your plate, friends and family can help carry the load. Talking about your stress in a formal setting either in-person or online can help reduce the burden on your mind.
- It’s easy to lose focus on what’s most important—especially during the holidays. Learn to let inconsequential things go if they’re affecting your health.
The first step to enjoying a happy and healthy new year is taking care of yourself this holiday season. Unexplained neck pain might be your body’s way of telling you to slow down and relax.
If neck pain persists after a couple of weeks, talk with your doctor about other treatment options. There could be a reason to consider noninvasive pain management techniques.