Neck Pain and Stress. Which Causes Which?

Neck Pain and Stress. Which Causes Which? Blog  Neck pain

It’s fairly widely understood that neck pain and stress are interconnected, making it hard for even an experienced medical professional to diagnose which is causing which. Although it may be tempting to use pain relieving medication to treat neck pain and stress, this is usually not the best option as learning how to relax can effectively reduce or eliminate the symptoms of both conditions. When neck pain is causing stress, treating the source of the stress may help reduce discomfort in the short term but fail to address what might be a treatable physical problem.

Many people who experience discomfort in their neck find that experience stressful unto itself, especially when the discomfort is very painful or long-lasting. Therefore with many people the discomfort that they feel in their neck is directly causing the stress that they feel.

But on the other hand, neck discomfort can be brought on due to a number of physical reasons, including cramps in the muscles, physical tension, poor sleeping patterns, anxiety, or even bad overall health brought on by depression.

Treatment Options

Regardless of which factor is the principle underlying cause of your stress and neck discomfort, there are a number of excellent treatment options available, including:

  • Learning what is the underlying cause of all of your symptoms
  • Visiting a doctor
  • Receiving education and support from family, friends, and colleagues
  • Understanding and treating the underlying cause, whether that’s stress from work-related issues, anxiety,  depression, fibromyalgia, spinal problems, or other issues.
  • Change your lifestyle, and learn meditation and relaxation techniques
  • Experiment with pain relievers
  • Modify your diet
  • Reduce your weight if you are obese

What to Expect at the Doctor’s Office

If the pain in your neck and stress become unbearable and you decide to seek medical treatment, be aware that you may be confronted with some difficult questions and thorough examinations. Your doctor visit may include:

  • Depression and psychological issues – Many times, neck discomfort is a sign of an underlying psychological issue like anxiety or depression, or simply worrying too much.
  • Stressful events and people in your life – In order to reduce stress and help eliminate neck discomfort, it can be important to analyze the exact factors that are contributing to your stress load.
  • Physical Examination – In many cases, neck discomfort is related to physical disorders like poor posture, problems with the thyroid, fibromyalgia, or other autoimmune illnesses.

The Cycle of Stress and Neck Discomfort

Unfortunately for sufferers of stress and neck discomfort, doctors know that there is a vicious cycle involved.

Physical pain leads to disability and impairment of daily functions, which leads to stress, which leads to more physical pain, in an endless cycle unless you treat the underlying problems.

Treatment Options for When the Pain is Physical in Nature

Even if your doctor diagnoses that your neck discomfort is being caused by a physical problem, there is help available, including:

  • Relaxation and Meditation – Learning to diminish stress can help reduce tension and muscle cramps
  • Psychological Help – When you’re feeling more positive and happier, you’ll be able to handle dealing with the sources of stress in your life. When you feel better mentally, your pain levels will be reduced.
  • Sleep – One of the most important things you can do to reduce neck discomfort and stress is to get enough restful, healthy sleep.
  • Eating Better – Eating the wrong foods can directly lead to higher stress levels, and impair your body’s natural ability to heal and repair itself.
  • Smoking and Drinking – Neither of these two activities is healthy in excess, so learning to live a healthier lifestyle is critical for reducing stress and neck discomfort.
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In this instance, an athlete was originally diagnosed with minor quadriceps muscle strain and was treated for four weeks, with unsatisfactory results. When he came to our clinic, the muscle was not healing, and the patients’ muscle tissue had already begun to atrophy.

Upon examination using MSUS, we discovered that he had a full muscle thickness tear that had been overlooked by his previous provider. To mitigate damage and promote healing, surgery should have been performed immediately after the injury occurred. Because of misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment, the patient now has permanent damage that cannot be corrected.

The most important advantage of Ultrasound over MRI imaging is its ability to zero in on the symptomatic region and obtain imaging, with active participation and feedback from the patient. Using dynamic MSUS, we can see what happens when patients contract their muscles, something that cannot be done with MRI. From a diagnostic perspective, this interaction is invaluable.

Dynamic ultrasonography examination demonstrating
the full thickness tear and already occurring muscle atrophy
due to misdiagnosis and not referring the patient
to proper diagnostic workup

Demonstration of how very small muscle defect is made and revealed
to be a complete tear with muscle contraction
under diagnostic sonography (not possible with MRI)

image

Complete tear of rectus femoris
with large hematoma (blood)

image

Separation of muscle ends due to tear elicited
on dynamic sonography examination

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