Where Do You Hold Your Stress? Tips to Relieve Pain

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Stored stress can lead to chronic pain. Fitness expert and award-winning trainer Oonagh Duncan has these tips for finding the source of your stress and getting relief!

sore neck and shoulders
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Neck and Shoulders

When we are stressed, most of us will feel it in our neck and shoulders first. That’s because most of us spend a lot of our day sitting and hunched over a computer, a steering wheel, at the dinner table, etc.

That area of tension is actually our upper trapezius. Our upper trapezius gets short and stiff when we round through the upper back and hunch our shoulders forward.

Get Relief

  • Stretch! Drop your ear to one shoulder and let the opposite shoulder hang loose. Focus on everything from the temple, the jaw, the neck and to the shoulder.
  • Make postural adjustments (roll your shoulders up, back and down and drop your chin so the back of your neck is long…you’ll also find it makes you look better!).

Strengthening Tips for Sore Neck and Shoulders

Strengthen your mid-back with exercises that draw the shoulder blades together against resistance. Good options would be 'Supermans with a T' (lying on your stomach and turning your thumbs to the ceiling and pulsing), a lat pull-down at the gym or even just standing against a wall and making ‘snow angels’ by pressing your arms back into the wall and sweeping up and down.

Pain Connection: Headaches and Sore Jaws

A lot of us don’t realize that tension in the upper trapezius can actually radiate to feelings of soreness in the jaw and headaches in the temples, so it’s definitely worth making those adjustments!

Lower Back

sore lower back
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Postural alignment can make all the difference in relieving lower back tension. Because we sit so much, our hip flexors (the muscles at the front that join our hips to our legs) are usually tight and that can pull our pelvis out of alignment, causing an excessive arch in the lower back (wearing high heels exacerbate this even more). Our lower back bears all the weight of your upper body so when it’s pulled out of alignment, there is a lot of load in the wrong places.

Get Relief

Stretch!

  • Your hip flexors. Take a giant step back and then drop your back knee and tuck your bum under until you feel a nice stretch in the hips.
  • Your hamstrings. Take a leg up on something and hinge from the hips (don’t round your back) to feel a stretch in the back of the leg.

Strengthening Tips to Manage Lower Back Pain

  • Your glutes: Lie on your back and bend your knees to bring your heels under your bum. Press into your heels to lift your hips and squeeze your bum.
  • Your core: Planking is the best for hitting deep core muscles! Lie on your stomach, put your elbows under your shoulders, tuck your toes and then lift yourself up so you are like a straight bridge from the heels to the crown of the head. Pull the belly in gently and remember to breathe.
  • Attempt to stay in neutral spine. The best way to find your neutral spine is to stand with your feet hip width apart and put your hands together, making a diamond with your thumbs and index fingers. Put the diamond on your lower abdomen, with the heels of your hands on your hip bones and your thumbs reaching toward your belly button. tilt your pelvis until your diamond is flat. That is your neutral spine!

The Mind-Body Stress Connection

woman meditating at sunrise
Photo Credit: iStock.com

When you experience psychological stress, your body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode, meaning that all your muscles tense up and that only serves to dial up the pressure on your pain points. Consider the vicious cycle of stress and body aches and pain. You can definitely address the physical symptoms of stress but it’s a better idea to tackle the root cause. Consider meditation for stress relief (have a look for some cool apps like these ones to get started) and use the natural calming endorphins that come from being active and spending time with people that make you happy!

 

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