Can Emotional Stress Cause Neck Pain?

Can Emotional Stress Cause Neck Pain?

When we feel pain, we’re often tempted to blame the area where that pain occurs. This is especially common with neck pain and those who experience it. However, your neck may not be the source of the issue, as emotional stress can be — and has been — a literal pain in the neck for many people.  

Dr. Navin Mahallavaram — and the rest of us here at The Spine and Pain Center of California — wants to provide you with all the facts before you begin the individualized treatment regimen that is best for you. As such, it’s crucial to consider the possibility of emotional pain creating literal pain, especially with the neck. 

Neck pain from emotional pain: How often does it happen? 

Unfortunately, many people who experience neck pain don’t realize how common it is for their discomfort to be a symptom of emotional stress. According to a study by, neck-related chronic pain (or pain that lasts three months or longer) is very frequently associated with emotional stress. 

A study from 2012 cited the frequency of chronic neck pain in the workplace, and the part emotional stress plays in this issue. In many cases, this pain can also spread to the shoulders and the head causing tension headaches

Considering the potential for stress-related neck pain 

One of the best ways to determine if stress could be playing a role in your neck pain is to examine your life. Are there parts of it that consistently cause you emotional difficulty or pain? Are you going through a significant life event, such as marriage, divorce, first-time parenthood, or losing someone you love? Or are the day-to-day aspects of your work or home life causing you stress? 

It may also be worth determining whether you might be dealing with anxiety as a mental health condition. Everyone gets anxious, but some people are constantly on edge without a clear reason. This kind of anxiety could be leading to chronic neck pain. 

When you are constantly under stress, your muscles will stay tight, as your body is reacting the same way it would to a physical threat. Over time, this can — and often does — lead to chronic pain. 

Getting help for your pain 

So you think your neck pain might be stress-related. Even so, allowing Dr. Mallavaram to examine you is still a critical part of the diagnosing process. 

Through a physical examination and perhaps even image testing, he may be able to find something else that could be affecting you, or he could help you pinpoint the location of your pain. Any of these results could benefit you in treating your pain long-term. 

There are several ways you can treat pain of this nature, and the most important is to try and reduce stress. This can be done through relaxation and visualization techniques, meditation, and better prioritization of your needs. Group or individualized therapy can also do a world of good. 

However, there are many physical treatments that could help as well, such as: 

In some cases, certain injections may be helpful for those with severe chronic neck pain that has gone beyond the point where the above suggestions alone can help. Dr. Mallavaram will be able to assist you in determining which treatment option will be best going forward. 

Get help for chronic neck pain today

Yes, it’s true. Emotional stress can cause physical neck pain. But that doesn’t make the discomfort less real or professional medical treatment less necessary. Let us help you determine the cause of your neck pain and help you create a treatment plan to move forward. 

Call our Fremont or Pleasanton, CA office today or book an appointment online at your convenience. We are here to help! 

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