With this past year being particularly difficult for all of us, more and more people are dealing with stress-related pain in their muscles and joints. Today, we’re discussing why stress can cause pain and tips that you can do at home to relieve that discomfort.
How stress causes pain and muscle tension
When our bodies feel stressed, they go into a defensive state where our muscles tense up. Our bodies do this as a way to protect ourselves from injury or pain—even if we’re not in any immediate physical harm or danger. You’ve probably heard of our ‘fight or flight’ reflex and this is exactly what our bodies are doing when we’re stressed to prepare for the worst. Typically, your muscles will stay tensed up until you no longer feel stressed, and your body can relax. With that being said, if you’re in a constant state of stress and your muscles are tensed up for a long period of time, this can actually cause more serious issues such as chronic muscle and joint pain, migraines, and flare-ups of arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other health conditions. Muscles that are tense can also lead to painful spasms.
Typically, this stress-induced pain will affect your neck and back area causing discomfort and oftentimes, extreme pain. When you feel stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol which can cause an increase of fat accumulation and a loss of muscle mass. An increased level of cortisol can also lead to inflammation in the muscles and joints. This causes an increased chance of pain, especially in your back and neck as your muscles become weaker.
Ways to relieve stress-induced pain
Now that you know why stress can cause muscle and joint pain, let’s dive into the ways that you can reduce and relieve that pain at home, so it doesn’t cause any long-term effects.
1. Eat healthy
You may be thinking to yourself, “how does the food I eat relate to my stress levels?” Well, when you are feeling stressed, the blood flow to your brain is affected. This means that some key nutrients aren’t able to make their way to the brain. When you eat healthy foods with omega-3s and vitamin E such as spinach, almonds, fish, blueberries, and chia seeds, your blood flow is actually increased and is able to deliver those important nutrients to your brain that reduce stress levels. On top of this, many people eat when they feel stress as a way to comfort themselves. While eating certain foods can help with stress levels, it’s important not to overeat as added weight can cause even more pain on your joints and muscles.
2. Cut down on alcohol and caffeine
Believe it or not, caffeine can actually raise your cortisol levels which as we know, leads to loss of muscle mass and chronic pain. High levels of caffeine also contribute to feelings of anxiety or stress. If you must drink caffeinated soda, coffee, or tea, make sure to limit your intake.
While some of us turn to drinking when we feel overly stressed, alcohol also causes a higher production of cortisol and actually changes the way our bodies perceive stress. While it’s perfectly okay to enjoy a cocktail every now and again, try and do it in moderation.
3. Get enough sleep
Sleep is one of the most powerful stress reducers because it relaxes your body, improves concentration, and more. Not getting enough sleep can have the total opposite effect and can even lessen your mental clarity. In addition, there have been links found between the hours of sleep one gets per night and the level of pain they feel in their body the following day. For adults, it’s recommended to sleep between 7-9 hours per night.
4. Stay active
On top of getting enough sleep, exercising is also one of the most important steps to reducing stress and stress-related pain. Working out increases the production of endorphins in your brain which can make you feel good. Regular exercise also helps to decrease inflammation and lower overall pain levels.
And exercise doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to give it your all in the gym every day to see results. Try going on walks around your neighborhood, do some stretches when you wake up, have fun by swimming in the pool—anything to get your body moving. Both your body and mind will thank you!
5. Engage in meditation and yoga
Speaking of staying active, try engaging in regular yoga flows and meditation sessions to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety. Both yoga and meditation promote the feelings of relaxation because they clear the mind and allow you to work on breath control to lower stress levels. Yoga can also help to relieve tension, stiffness, and pain in your muscles and joints because it focuses on stretching and muscle building. Even if you can only meditate or do yoga for a few minutes every day, you will notice a huge difference on both your mental and physical health!
6. Know that you’re not alone
When going through a stressful time, it’s important to remember that you are not alone in this and millions of people are dealing with the same things you’re feeling. Make sure to talk with your friends and family and see a therapist if needed to help you pinpoint your stress triggers and eliminate them from your life.
7. Use a pain-relieving patch
While it’s great to reduce stress, sometimes it’s just not feasible or it may take more time than you’d life. If you’re dealing with stress-related pain in your muscles and joints, you will find immense benefit in using a pain-relieving patch to reduce discomfort. The SINSINPAS AREX Instant Pain Relief Patch is great for lowering stress-induced pain because it offers a cooling and heating effect to decrease inflammation and soreness. The AREX patch is made of durable, ultra-flexible material so you can apply it and go about your day without thinking twice.
8. Make time for yourself
The last tip for reducing stress may seem like the most obvious one but it’s the one people avoid the most: make time for yourself to do the things you enjoy. So many people are caught up in their lives with work, school, and family that they forget to spend time doing the things that make them feel good! Focusing on yourself is a great way to reduce stress and minimize tense muscles and painful joints.