Although the stresses of life can take a toll on our mental health, another common symptom is muscle tension. Persistent pain in the neck and shoulders is typical after a long, emotional day dealing with hurdles at work and home. Carrying the weight of the world is not just a saying -- it’s actually the truth.
When the body is stressed, the muscles tense up. That’s because muscle tension is a reflex reaction to stress, both physical and emotional. It’s essentially the body’s way of guarding against injury and pain.
The shoulder area, particularly the trapezius muscle, tends to carry more tension than anywhere else. This important muscle is responsible for a number of movements. It’s used to turn the head and neck, steady the shoulders and twist the arms. If you’re suffering from tight shoulders and a stiff neck, these symptoms should never be ignored. This is the body’s way of telling you a lifestyle change is in order, and that it’s time to reassess our emotional response to various events.
The mind-body connection is a very real concept that deserves further exploration. Stress can have serious consequences for individuals who choose to ignore this relationship. If you’re suffering from chronic pain in your neck or shoulders, there may be more to it than simply a rough day at the office.
Shouldering life’s burdens
Muscle tension often becomes worse as we get older because we tend to take on more responsibilities as we age. You may be at the height of your career and working demanding hours. Or you may suddenly find yourself as the sole caregiver for an aging parent. Financial hardship, marital troubles or difficulties connecting with teenage children may also become sources of great stress. You may find that various muscle groups aren’t functioning properly as you struggle to keep up with these obstacles day-to-day.
Regular massage therapy can ease tense muscles and promote relaxation. Improve your mood and daily function with the help of a qualified RMT who will target problem areas. Massage therapy can become a vital part of your overall health routine, so you can feel ready to tackle anything that comes your way.
Imbalance of energy
In ancient Chinese medicine, there’s a strong belief that muscle stiffness is caused by an energy imbalance and poor blood circulation. By stimulating various pressure points, one can eliminate all pain and discomfort. This practice is known as acupuncture, and is highly effective for stress management.
Each area of tension can be relieved by targeting specific meridians, also known as ‘energy highways’:
- Back of neck - Urinary bladder
- Top of shoulders - Gallbladder
- Shoulder blades - Small intestine
- Side of neck - Large intestine or Gallbladder
In Hinduism, however, various body parts are connected to the seven chakras. For example, the shoulders are connected to the fifth chakra. Shoulder tension can be caused by a disruption in this energy tunnel -- made worse by an inability to forgive and let go. A blocked fifth chakra can contribute to feelings of insecurity, timidity and isolation. Yoga and other meditation techniques can help alleviate these negative emotions.
Shifting gender roles
Over the past several decades, Canadian society has changed in many ways -- especially when it comes to the role of women. Traditionally, social conventions have laid down different rules for men and women in the home.
But today, more and more females are now the family breadwinners. They’re taking on increasingly demanding roles in their careers, while still acting as the primary caregivers for their children. A buildup of stress is inevitable as women no longer have the time for proper self-care.
Aquatic therapy is particularly beneficial for women suffering from stress-related muscle tension. This exercise-based treatment is not only helpful in reducing pain and inflammation, but water’s therapeutic properties can also promote tranquility and relaxation.
Responding to life’s challenges with care and compassion is key to reducing stress-related muscle tension. Stress management is much more than simply ‘coping’ with everyday hurdles. It involves a shift in our way of thinking, and requires appropriate lifestyle changes to accommodate our wellbeing. Effective strategies include:
- Engaging in regular physical exercise
- Ensuring an adequate amount of sleep each night
- Maintaining a healthy social network that consists of family, friends and colleagues
Physiomed takes a whole-body approach to stress management. Our team of healthcare professionals can develop a customized program to help you relieve stress-related muscle tension. We also offer nutritional counselling, physiotherapy and chiropractic care for a well-rounded approach to health and wellness.
Whether your emotions are negatively impacted by a demanding career, family commitments or personal insecurities -- allow Physiomed to help you regain control of your health and life.
For more information on stress-related muscle tension or to book an assessment, contact us here.