Health blog

What you need to know about neck pain and headaches from stress

July 5th, 2020

Stress is nothing more than our reaction to something that upsets our physical and/or mental equilibrium. Therefore, stress is an inevitable part of life. 

Nevertheless, when we are faced with stress, our “fight or flight” response can be triggered; this causes the production of hormones including adrenaline and cortisol to increase and rush through your body. One common effect that these stress reactions can have is to cause neck pain and headaches. In fact, research shows that headaches are one of the top 10 most disabling conditions for Americans. 

How does stress cause neck pain and headaches? 

Besides the stress reactions mentioned above, stress can also lead to neck pain and headaches. Stress can cause muscles in our neck and scalp to contract. These muscle contractions can also occur when we’re faced with anxiety or depression. When these muscles contract, they often cause dull, nagging headaches that often turn into full-blown migraines.

Robert Gotlin, director of Orthopaedics and Sports Rehabilitation at Beth Israel Medical Center, says this about neck pain: “As stress goes up I definitely see more patients with neck pain. Every year around tax time, the number of patients with neck pain increases, especially among Wall Street types here in New York.”

What other issues can cause neck pain besides stress? 

Another cause of neck pain and headaches is structural and results from a neck joint issue. This type of headache is known as a cervicogenic, or neck-based, headache. Research shows that fixing the neck issue can also end the headache. The joints usually associated with a cervicogenic headache are:

  • Atlanto-occipital joint (O-C1)
  • Atlanto-axial joint (C1/2)
  • C2 cervical joint
  • C3 cervical joint

Some other common causes of headaches besides stress include:

  • Caffeine (too little or too much)
  • Sinus infections from a cold or the flu
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Eye strain
  • Fatigue
  • Tobacco use
  • Poor head and neck posture

How can I deal with stress-based neck pain and tension headaches?

Tension headaches are the most common of all headaches, and this means you need to know how to deal with one. Here are three tips on how to deal with tension headaches:

  1. Relax — Tension headaches are called this for a reason; relaxation and stress relief can help alleviate your headache. Also, activities that strain your neck and back should be curtailed.
  1. Fix your workplace ergonomics — A headset for your telephone. Proper monitor positioning. A desktop riser that lets you work while standing. Each of these options can help you address poor workplace ergonomics that might be causing your headaches.
  1. Stretch your neck muscles — Stretching is a great way to reduce tension in neck muscles. Try stretching with a general exercise program designed by a trainer or physical therapist and that’s specific to your needs.

Find out how Rehab Access can help with your stress-based neck pain and headaches

Need help dealing with chronic neck pain and headaches caused by stress and other issues? Our team at Rehab Access is primed to help headache sufferers get physical therapy that can reduce their symptoms and headache frequency. 

We’ll start by performing a complimentary screening on you. This will give our specialists the chance to learn the source of your neck pain and headaches. Next, our team will construct a personalized therapy plan for you that may include therapy techniques like virtual care. You can even start using our therapy services without going through the hassle of getting a doctor’s referral first. 

Contact our team today for more information about our neck pain and headache treatment options or to schedule an initial appointment.