ProvidencePT_Relieving Neck Pain and Stress


APRIL 2020

ALSO INSIDE: • Spring Into Your Best Life • Laura’s Corner • How can Physical Therapy Help?



APRIL 2020


Stress-induced neck pain isn’t rare. It also isn’t psychological. Many experts think stress-induced neck pain is caused by physical factors — low, but constant, trapezius muscle activity. If your neck pain starts at the base of your shoulders, traveling upward, it may be stress related. Causes of Stress-Related Neck Pain While stress alone can trigger neck pain, a few factors can make it worse. Office environments tend to create neck pain problems — as they confine people to chairs, bad posture and little mobility. Driving often, too, can make your chances of stress-related neck pain higher. The U.S. National Library of Medicine suggests contacting a professional if you’re experiencing neck pain. Even if it’s caused by stress, untreated neck pain might later reveal muscle spasms, arthritis, bulging discs or even narrowed spinal nerve openings.

Does your neck hurt? You might be suffering from stress-related pain — also called a tension headache. During anxiety, muscles tense up. As muscle tension tightens, the back, shoulders and neck are affected. The more pressure they cause, the more discomfort you

get. Let’s take a closer look at stress-related neck pain. Is My Neck Pain Caused by Stress?

Pain worsened by keeping your head in one place — like when you’re driving, or using a computer — is neck pain. While neck pain has a slew of symptoms, its major symptoms, reported by Mayo Clinic, are: • Muscle tightness and spasms • Headaches • Decreased ability to move the head


Laura’s Corner Social distance. Stay at home. Wear a mask. All words that can drive a sense of calm right out of our moments, days, and lives. Plenty has been said about how these are unprecedented times, but I want to share some ideas that may help you focus on what you can do to optimize your health right now with exercise, sleep, and yes, breathing. FIRST, EXERCISE.

SECOND, SLEEP. Right now, while most of us are required to stay at home, our days have lost their familiar rhythm and obligations. Even so, it is vitally important tomake and keep a routine to keep healthy sleep drive (the thing that causes us to want to sleep and stay asleep). Avoid napping during the day, and schedule a set time to sleep each night, andwake eachmorning (even on the weekends). You will also want to limit your exposure to blue light. The blue light fromscreens (your phone, your computer, and TV) reduce melatonin, and we need increased levels of melatonin to fall off to sleep properly. Right now, you might feel pulled toward the news. All…day…long. Instead, allow yourself set times to watch news, say at 5 PM and 10 PM only, and set times to check your phone, work on your computer, etc. Try to limit your time looking at screens throughout the day, and eliminate screens 30minutes to 1 hour before bedtime to sleep better. THIRD, BREATHING. We all need to take time to breathe more. Especially now, when we feel tense and stressed. Start by observing how others breathe during times they are relaxed or stressed and then also observe the differences in your own breathing when feelingmost relaxed or stressed. Notice that breath starts with the belly moving out or with the chest pulling up. This is a more relaxing breath and the best breath for the body. Also notice the exhale. Is it short, or as long as the exhale? A short exhale createsmore stress in the

body. Practice this reclined. Breathe in through your nose and let your belly move OUT slowly and fully, and then travel up to the chest as the chest EXPANDS front and back and side to side just like the belly did. Then purse your lips and exhale SLOWLY, about as long or even a bit longer than the inhale. There is no need to count the breath or control how long you inhale or exhale. The goal is a breath that starts in the belly, expands the belly and chest and has a long exhale. Try three of these breaths to begin. Try to do 2 or 3 of these breaths several times throughout the day (you can do it every couple of hours, whenever your see a particular color, notice stress or tension in your body or emotions, or notice an increase in pain). It only takes a moment and you will immediately feel some ease. If you enjoy this, we will share more helpful hints in future emails and newsletters, but you can also find additional resources at Hopefully some or all of these strategies will be helpful to you. We also suggest the Chocolate Cake in a Mug. It’s always a fun way to bring a smile and a little joy to your day! Looking forward to seeing you soon! Stay well!

Get some movement and regular activity into your day. Start with a short brisk walk and increase your time or distance a bit each few days (see our walking guide in the February 2020 newsletter on our resource page at If you track your steps (with an app on your phone, a Fitbit, or similar), try to increase your steps by 300 steps per day. Take breaks every 2 to 3 hours and get outside to walk (or walk around inside your home or in your yard), even if it is for 5 to 10 minutes. Movement helps to get oxygen to your brain, muscles and tissues, and if you pick up the pace a bit, your body will release endorphins that reduce stress, decrease pain, and even alleviate mild depression. The added bonus of getting outside is that Vitamin D from the sun can help to strengthen your immune system.



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LEVATOR SCAPULAE STRETCH Sit in a chair with the hand on the side of the neck to be stretched beneath you. (Alternatively, you can grab under the chair.) Use your free hand to gently pull your nose down toward your armpit so as to give your neck an extra stretch. Hold for 5-10 seconds before relaxing the muscle for another 5-10 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.



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FromOur Kitchen to Yours CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE

Neck pain, fortunately, can be alleviated with physical therapy. Because neck pain is often caused by activity, different activity can cure it. Sometimes, this “activity”means “no activity.” Before you contact a professional, try reducing your neckmovements. Sometimes, simply letting your neck muscles relax is enough. If you don’t see relief within two weeks, contact a professional. Physical therapists can target your pain’s source by examining your symptoms. Then, they can offer exercises that stretch, flex and relax your neck muscles. In time, your neck will become more resilient — giving you the comfort you deserve. Where aftercare treatment is considered, custom-tailored neck exercises will assure your neck stays loose, limber and healthy. If you’re dealing with neck pain, you’re not alone. Call our office today, and schedule an assessment. Even if your neck pain is caused by stress, it still needs attention. We’ll work side by side with your goals, creating the proactive, effective programs you need to achieve mobility once more. Sources reduce-stress.aspx htm conditions/neck-pain/symptoms-causes/syc-20375581 HowPhysical Therapy Can Help

This is simple recipe that will result in a small cake for you (or to share with a friend) within 5 to 10 minutes because you make it in the microwave. A fun activity for kids and adults alike. For other cake flavors go to: https://www. chocolate-mug-cake. INGREDIENTS • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour • 2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

• 1/4 teaspoon baking powder • 3 tablespoon granulated sugar • 1/8 teaspoon salt • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp. milk • 2 tablespoon vegetable oil • 2 tablespoon chocolate chips INSTRUCTIONS

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Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add milk and oil. Pour into your mug (10 oz or larger). Make sure to leave head space for cake to rise. Drop in chocolate chips. Set mug on a paper towel in the microwave (to catch batter if it overflows). Microwave 70 to 90 seconds on high until cake is cooked through. Carefully remove frommicrowave. Top with whipped cream, caramel sauce, fudge topping, powdered sugar, shaved chocolate, sprinkles, berries, (or nothing at all), and enjoy!

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