Pain, Pain Go Away: Stress Hot Spots and How to Relieve Them
In a world where quarantines and school closures are the new norm and we’re all too familiar with the words “pandemic” and “coronavirus,” it’s understandable if you are feeling tremendous pressure. Even in a pre-COVID-19 world, it was easy to be stressed about everyday responsibilities. For many of us, we unconsciously tense our muscles in response to stress, leaving us with headaches, tightness in the lower back, or knots in our shoulders, among other trouble spots.
Our amazing bodies are highly attuned to our emotional and mental states. When we are experiencing these aches and pains, it’s our bodies’ way of speaking to us. However, it’s up to us to listen. Here are some of the most common areas where we carry stress due to muscle tension, and some ways to help alleviate the pain.
Tension headaches are no fun—your head feels like it’s in a vise-like grip and it hurts to simply look at something. Stress can be a cause, but tension headaches may also be triggered by too much time staring at screens. Some people also tend to experience pain in the jaw from frequently clenching or grinding teeth.
If screen time is the culprit, a simple solution is the 20-20-20 rule: When working on a computer screen, take a break every 20 minutes and focus on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Jaw pain can be reduced with deep breathing exercises through the mouth and gentle jaw stretches.
For stress-related head pain, you can pop a pain reliever in a pinch, but cranio-sacral massage can provide deep, soothing relief better than an ibuprofen. If you can’t get in for a massage right away, try a little DIY acupressure by using your right index finger and thumb to firmly but gently press on the fleshy point between your left thumb and index finger, then switch hands after about five minutes.
If you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders, you’re not alone. This is a common stress storage area, where you can feel knots of tight muscles or lingering pain. Stress here can be compounded with poor posture or too much time at a non-ergonomic desk.
What helps? Well, after taking that 20-20-20 break for your eyes, circle your head slowly or stretch your neck from side to side to work out kinks. Rolling your shoulders back a few times is another good stretch, with the added benefit of improving posture. In the shower, you can gently stroke the top of your back from the base of the neck to the shoulder for a quick, improvised massage. It may help to invest in ergonomic office furniture as well.
Like the shoulders and neck, the back suffers when you’re sitting at a desk all day. There may be upper-back pain associated with the tension in the neck and shoulders, as well as lower-back aches. Because the spine is central to many of your daily movements, stress-related back pain can be debilitating and limit function. That can cause more stress…and more back pain, in what becomes a vicious cycle.
Gentle exercise such as walking, tai chi, or yoga can help stretch and strengthen back muscles so they can better withstand tension. Regular massage can be very therapeutic at relieving stress and maintaining healthy back muscles.
The hips are also a stress repository, and sitting all day doesn’t help. You want to have flexibility in the hips, so targeted stretches such as hip openers can be valuable in easing discomfort. Using a foam roller to break up tension in muscles may also help.
For any area where stress is causing you pain, your body is telling you it’s time for self-care. Make sure you are eating well, exercising, and practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation. One of the best things you can do, for your body and your mental health, is to get massages. We offer a wide range of massage services and each treatment is customized for the greatest effect. And with Firefly Wellness’ monthly massage memberships, you’ll reap amazing stress-reduction benefits on a regular basis. Contact us today or book an appointment online and get ready to feel the stress melt away.