Muscle Pain and Tension Due to Stress

Did you know that stress can give you headaches, neck aches and stomach aches if you don't treat it properly? In this article, we'll give you the keys to solving this problem.
Muscle Pain and Tension Due to Stress

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 15 December, 2022

Muscle pain and muscle tension due to stress are phenomena that weren’t recognized until some decades ago. Previously, it was thought that these problems were anecdotal and lacked valid scientific basis.

Fortunately, neuroscience has taught us the real reason. Today, we know that stress is also an organic factor. We also know that it generates multiple health consequences.

Nevertheless, there are countless people who suffer from these conditions and haven’t even realized it yet. They believe that these muscular problems, headaches, and the like have their origin in other factors.

Therefore, it’s very important to investigate this issue further, and try to offer a feasible solution. Let’s dive in.

Is stress good or bad?

A stress headache.

We’ve all heard of stress, but we don’t always know the real meaning of this word. To define it in a very simple way, we can say that stress is the physiological state that takes place in dangerous situations, be it real or imaginary.

When there’s a real threat, the organism must prepare itself physiologically for defense, escape, or attack. This is part of our survival instinct and is healthy. If a person doesn’t feel fear, then they won’t try to avoid danger and may be a victim of the real threat.

Stress becomes pathological or negative when there isn’t any real danger and yet the body prepares to face it. It’s also unhealthy when that feeling remains, even long after the threat has been effectively dealt with.

The effects of stress on the body

Every single feeling and emotion we experience affects our body. Sometimes in a positive way and sometimes in a negative way. Muscle pain and tension from stress manifest themselves in many ways that we’ll explain below.

Pain associated with stress

It’s very common for a person with chronic stress to have frequent headaches, according to this study by Dr. Volcy Gomez. This type of pain is known as a tension headache and is usually accompanied by a throbbing sensation in the neck or shoulders.

Stomach pain, chest pain, sleep problems and fatigue, among others, are also common, as this Mayo Clinic report notes.

All of this, of course, without even beginning to mention the effects that stress has on mood and behavior. Among them, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, irritability, etc.

Muscle tension due to stress

A woman with a headache.

When a person feels stress, there’s immediate muscle tension in the body. This causes a reduction in blood flow to the areas of the body that are stressed.

If this situation continues for a long time, the result is chronic muscle pain, contractions and even muscle spasms. Stress usually affects the muscles in the following areas:

  • Jaw
  • Between the eyebrows
  • Neck
  • Shoulders
  • Back

It also increases the risk of injury. Muscle tension leads to muscle stiffness. Under these conditions, it’s easier for a tear to occur.

How to avoid pain and muscle tension due to stress

The best way to avoid pain and muscle tension from stress is to solve the underlying problem, i.e. the stress. The ideal way to treat it is to combine psychological help with some physical practice. This can be physical therapy, sport, dance, etc.

There are psychological therapies of different types and all of them include protocols for stress management. These specific processes don’t usually take long, unless there are other underlying problems that require more prolonged attention.

Physical activity is also advisable. Exercising for 15 minutes each day is highly recommended. It’s also advisable to take a daily 30-minute walk or to practice a sport, as well as to practice yoga or relaxation techniques.

In any case, the best thing to do in these cases is to put yourself in the hands of a professional. Don’t ignore the problem or else the long-term consequences could be dangerous.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.