4 Simple Solutions to Stress Related Neck and Shoulder Pain


Posted by Dr. Scott Wilson | 15-Feb-2022

It’s no secret that stress can impact your physical health in a variety of ways. It can affect your immune system, your cardiovascular system, and can introduce gastrointestinal problems. However, one very common manifestation of stress is neck and shoulder pain.

Why Does Stress Cause Neck and Shoulder Pain?

Muscle tension is a sort of reflex reaction to stress. When we experience sudden onset stress, our muscles naturally tense up in anticipation of the need to protect ourselves from a potential threat. Once that stress or perceived threat has passed, our muscles are relaxed and the tension is released. However, with chronic stress, we remain in a near constant state of guardedness. This means that our muscles don’t release and the level of tension we hold remains constant. This constant tension can result in stiffness, tightness, aching, and pain.

Stress-related pain in the neck and shoulders often stems from emotional or mental anxiety. Left untreated, this constant tension can affect the nerves and muscles that run through the neck, shoulders, and spine.

How Do You Combat Neck and Shoulder Pain Tension?

Fortunately, there are techniques that you can use to help relieve this tension, reduce pain & discomfort and prevent longer-term damage from occurring. If you’re suffering from neck and shoulder pain, these four simple solutions can help:

1. Treat the Cause:

The most permanent solution to the problem of stress-induced tension is to address whatever underlying issue is causing your stress to begin with.

This means identifying your stress triggers. It may be that you routinely feel stress as a result of a particular recurring experience. Try to determine when you feel stress and what appears to be happening at the time. If the situation is avoidable, you may be able to prevent the impact by making some tweaks to your routine. For example, if heavy traffic stresses you out, consider altering your route or your departure time. Of course, more complex and longer-term challenges may require more complex solutions including the assistance of a Psychotherapist or other mental health professional.

In the meantime, there are many ways to reduce stress and anxiety, and finding the particular outlet that’s best suited to you can make a big difference. You may find that your stress is reduced after meditation, participating in a creative task, or through exercise or sports. Relaxation techniques are personal, and it may take time to learn what works best for you, but that’s okay.

2. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation:

Progressive muscle relaxation is a process in which you systematically tense and relax different muscle groups in the body. With practice, this technique familiarizes you with the sensation of tension – and total relaxation – in different parts of the body. Over time, progressive muscle relaxation helps you to spot the first signs of muscular tension and counteract them.

This technique only requires about 15 minutes per session. It’s recommended that you practice progressive muscle relaxation twice a day at the start, until you get the hang of it. As you become more familiarized with the technique, your relaxation response will begin to naturally kick in as a response to stress-induced tension! Make sure that you practice progressive muscle relaxation safely – here’s a comprehensive guide.

3. Get the Blood Flowing:

Immediate relief for muscle tension comes from lengthening the muscle fibers and increasing blood flow to the area. This can be achieved through gentle stretching, the use of heating pads, and massage.

The pressure, movement, and heat of a massage prompts an increase in circulation. Stretches can help to relieve tension by lengthening the shortened muscle fibers in the area. Both of these techniques feel good because they help to restore the muscle fibers to their true length, rather than their tightened form when tense.

These techniques are safest, and most effective, when done gently and gradually. Aggressively massaging or quickly stretching a taut muscle can achieve the opposite effect and provoke increased stiffening. When administered with a light touch, both massage and stretching can successfully ease the tightened muscles back to normal and relieve that pain.

4. Enlist Professional Help:

Living with constant pain and tension held in the neck and shoulders can significantly impact your quality of life, even if you don’t realize it. If various simple avoidance and relaxation techniques aren’t providing the relieve you need, you may need to enlist professional help. A licensed Physiotherapist or registered Massage Therapist can help you to locate the specific areas where you feel pain. They can craft an individualized program designed to help relieve that pain including home exercises to help manage and mitigate that pain. A registered Psychotherapist or other mental health professional can help you with managing your stress by helping you to reframe and better manage responses to external situations or help you better understand and process deeper and more complex emotional challenges.


If you’re struggling with stress related neck and shoulder pain, contact us today and let our team of highly skilled and experienced Physiotherapists, Massage Therapist and Psychotherapists show you why, at Physiomed, Healthier Starts Here.

Dr. Scott Wilson

Dr. Scott Wilson is the Founder & Chairman of Physiomed; one of Canada’s largest franchised networks of inter-disciplinary healthcare clinics. A graduate of Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, Dr. Wilson founded Physiomed in 1994 and has since grown Physiomed to over 30 clinics in Southern Ontario and British Columbia. With hundreds of practitioners from over a dozen disciplines, Dr. Wilson and Physiomed have helped over 100,000 Canadians with physiotherapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, orthotic therapy, compression therapy and clinical conditioning as part of a program of rehabilitation and health optimization. In addition to helping patients improve their physical and mental well-being, Dr. Wilson has also mentored hundreds of practitioners to provide better care while enjoying more fulfilling careers. He is also a keynote speaker on many health related topics including how physiotherapy, chiropractic and health & wellness treatment can help with stress, weight loss, and unlocking the true potential within to achieve lasting physical well-being.

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