Home / Blog November 03, 2023 Updated on January 04, 2024

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What Science Says About Stress Causing Neck Pain

What does science say about  stress-induced muscle tension? Keep on reading to discover how our body's natural responses can lead to persistent pain, and effective strategies to offer relief

working with stressed neck


Stress and neck pain are intricately related, as everyday stressors are transformed into persistent discomfort by physiological responses.

Effective relief strategies for stress-induced neck pain include heat therapy, massage, exercise, and specific stretches.

If neck pain persists despite trying home remedies, seek professional help from a physiotherapist. 

Did you know?
Did you know that stress not only affects your neck muscles but also your voice? Chronic stress can lead to vocal tension, causing changes in voice pitch and quality.

Neck pain has become an all too familiar companion for many people, often caused by daily stressors. In this article, we try to unravel how stress can lead to neck muscle knots, and ways to remedy the discomfort.

What Causes Neck Pain?

In the modern hustle, tightness in your neck has become an unwelcome companion. There are few things as unpleasant as waking up with kinks in your neck and having to go through your day with painful neck muscles.

Understanding the root causes of neck pain or tightness in your neck, can be the first step towards finding relief. Often, it’s our daily habits wreaking havoc — slouching over desks, cradling phones between shoulder and ear, or sleeping in awkward positions. Poor posture, whether at work or while scrolling through smartphones, strains our neck muscles over time.

In some cases, health issues can give rise to neck pain. For example, the sudden jerk or impact from an accident can cause muscle and ligament strains in your neck. Degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis and herniated discs, where the cushioning between neck vertebrae deteriorates, can be another factor that contributes to persistent neck pain

Even seemingly unrelated conditions like stress-induced muscle tension can manifest as neck pain, making it crucial to identify the underlying cause for effective treatment. Now, let’s dive deeper into how you can get neck pain from stress

Stress and Neck Pain

How does stress and anxiety cause tension in your neck and shoulders? Muscle pain due to stress can be because of your body’s “fight or flight” response.

When stress or anxiety strikes, your muscles contract forcefully, triggering a stress response (“fight or flight” response) as an automatic reflex. This reaction, designed to protect us from for physical threats, leads to muscle contractions, especially in the neck and shoulders. Even non-physical stressors, like traffic jams or work pressure, can result in neck spasms from stress; your muscles relax only when the perceived threat subsides.

If you are under prolonged stress, your body may retain the muscle tension.The more stressed you are, the tenser your neck muscles become, intensifying the discomfort.

Stress-induced hormones like adrenaline and cortisol also play a role in exacerbating the problem. Adrenaline heightens blood pressure and muscle tension, preparing your body for action; whereas cortisol, the stress hormone, interferes with various functions, contributing to muscle spasms and pain.

If the tension in your neck and shoulders from anxiety is persistent, the resulting chronic neck pain can lead to fatigue, depression, and irritability. And given its close proximity to your head, tension in your neck from stress, can cause back muscle pain and for some even migraines.

How To Relieve Neck Pain

What can you do to ease stress-related neck and shoulder pain? Here are some tips that can help relieving stress in your neck:

Heat therapy

Heat therapy works to increase blood flow and relax muscles, to help reduce the tension. If you have a hot pack at home, apply it to your neck and shoulders for approximately 20 minutes before you go to bed.

Our Calmer (neck wrap), an ergonomically designed, gently weighted neck wrap, can be heated or warmed in the microwave for soothing relief. A hot bath or shower also can help subdue aching neck muscles.

Massage therapy

Massage therapy is one of the best ways to reduce pain in the neck. Soft tissue massage can help to release tight and overworked muscles, reduce spasms and assist in tissue regeneration. Physiotherapy or remedial massage has a great effect on stress reduction, promoting a decrease in cortisol. Massage also promotes increased levels of serotonin and dopamine, which promotes overall relaxation.


If the muscles between your shoulder blades are weak, they can become tight and sore because of the added tension, your neck pain when you are stressed. Exercises to help strengthen your upper body muscleswill better support your neck, which in turn help with your neck pain and even prevent it; stretches to help relieve tension can also help significantly.


When we are stressed, we tend to hunch our shoulders and carry extra tension in our neck muscles. Gentle neck stretches can help improve flexibility and range of motion, as well as loosen up the tightness.

1. Here are Neck stretch: Ease tension in your neck and improve the range of motion of your head by stretching your neck. Start by standing tall with your left arm at your side, then place your right hand on your head with your fingers pointing to the left side. Gently pull your head toward the right side until you feel a stretch in the left side of your neck, and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the opposite sideome recommended stretches for you to try:

2. Neck release: Loosen tension gently in your shoulders and neck with this movement. Start by standing tall with both arms at your sides, then lower your head and bring your chin toward your chest. Gently tilt your head towards the right side and pause for 30 seconds – you should feel a stretch in the left side of your neck – then bring your head back to the center and lift to the starting position, and change sides.

3. Child’s Pose: This yoga pose can gently stretch your upper body and help relieve neck and back pain. Get on your hands and knees with your palms flat on the floor, with your wrists under your shoulders, and your knees under your hips. Sit back on your heels, lengthen your spine, and walk your hands out in front of you; then fold forward and keep your arms extended for 60 seconds. Focus on your breathing while you hold your position, so that you can release tension in your neck.

If your stress-induced neck pain is not relieved in a week or two, you should see a registered massage therapist or physiotherapist, who can offer treatment options and diagnose possible underlying conditions.


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By focusing on ways to treat both the mind and the body, you can help lessen neck tension stress and the toll it can take. Remember, addressing stress-induced neck pain is not just about physical well-being; it's also about nurturing mental and emotional health by letting go of stress