Neck Pain and Anxiety, Depression, & Mental Health

Neck Pain and Anxiety, Depression, & Mental Health

If you are or have suffered from neck pain, you think of it as a physical issue, right?

You wouldn’t believe it could be related to something that had no physical origin. However, there is more to the body than meets the eye.

A lot of physical issues can be the manifestation of a mental one – the two are surprisingly connected. If you have exhausted all areas of research around why you might be suffering from neck pain, maybe it’s time to ask your doctor about the link between neck pain and mental health. Let’s take a look at how the two are connected.



The Calm Clinic talks about anxiety when assessing chronic neck pain.

They say that stress can have a physical effect on the body. When you’re dealing with anxiety, you’re putting your body through great stress. This means that your body is constantly in flight or fight mode, which causes your muscles to fluctuate between being flexed and relaxed continually. This has long-term implications when it comes to muscle discomfort. While not everyone who suffers from anxiety will experience symptoms like neck pain, there are certainly those that do who can trace the symptom back to this mental issue.

While there are many other causes of neck pain, such as whiplash and arthritis, it is worth considering if anxiety is a factor. As discussed above, the leading cause of physical discomfort like neck pain is due to the muscles being tensed continuously, which puts a lot of unnecessary stress in this area. The more anxiety you may experience, the tenser your muscles will be and for longer. This may cause a significant amount of pain and general discomfort around the neck, head, and shoulders.

Let’s take a look at some practical ways of relieving the pain in your neck:

  1. Massage: a massage can be relaxing and help to release some of the tension in your neck muscles. Whether you pay for a massage or get a significant other to rub your neck, this could be beneficial in relieving your body of some of the stress you are carrying and reduce your levels of anxiety.
  2. Hot Bath or Shower: heat is very relaxing and soothing for muscles that are tense. Because heat makes it hard for your muscles to stay tense, you should automatically feel them relaxing. Standing under hot water for a prolonged period can also help your anxiety.
  3. Exercise: getting out and going for a good run or your preferred method of activity can also help relieve the tension in your muscles. Because you’re using up the energy stored in them, it’s harder once you’ve exercised for your muscles to hold in stress and tension.

Anxiety Center has some additional ways that you can help eliminate the tension and pain in your neck. You can try a deep relaxation technique, such a meditation that will relax your whole body, including your neck. You can also use sore muscle ointment, and pain relievers as well if the pain is severe enough.

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Wyatt Meyers of Everyday Health discusses the valid link between neck pain and depression. He cites a 2009 study involving 448 German patients. Researchers concluded that those who were suffering from neck pain also had a higher risk of suffering from mental illness like depression. Additionally, the greater the pain, the more likely this was.

The connection between neck pain and depression is understandable. Chronic pain can interfere with everyday things like sleep patterns and essential everyday functions. If these are compromised, and the patient has to adjust daily life due to pain, their brain will start to approach the pain differently, and they, therefore, have a reasonably good chance of developing depression.

While it sounds like the two go hand in hand, this isn’t the case. Not everybody who suffers from depression will experience neck pain and vice versa. However, for those of you who have developed depression due to a chronic condition like neck pain, here are some practical treatments that will give you some relief and help you to understand the connection a bit better:

  • Treat both Conditions: it’s essential to combat both the pain and the feelings of depression at the same time. This is because you don’t want to treat the pain and be left with the depression. It’s good to talk to someone about the mood as well as the physical symptoms.
  • Exercise: exercise is one of the best medicines, especially when it comes to muscle pain. Additionally, exercise can also be extremely beneficial at lifting your mood and treating the depression at the same time. Exercise can be effective at treating both issues at the same time.
  • Medication – if necessary: if you think you need it, it’s worth asking your doctor about anti-depressants. Not only can they help to assist you mentally, but they can also relieve those symptoms of discomfort in your neck. If you’re experiencing an increase in good mood, your body shouldn’t be as tense, which will help to deal with the physical pain.

NCBI makes an important point about the symptoms and causes of neck pain. Citing an article, they conclude that the higher the neck pain, the more attention should be given to the potential presence of psychosocial distress. While they also disclose that further research is needed to prove this correlation, it certainly seems likely that there may be a strong connection between suffering from depression and experiencing high levels of chronic neck pain.

If you have or are suffering from chronic neck pain, don’t despair.

The issues outlining it may be more complicated than you think, which is why it’s recommended to seek the advice of a health professional. You never know what could be the reason you are feeling the way you feel, and while the cause can be complicated, the solution doesn’t have to be. If you are treating it the correct way, you should be able to experience relief from those physical symptoms at some point in the future.

One Reply to “Neck Pain and Anxiety, Depression, & Mental Health”

  1. I am 24 years old. Last year April, I sort of injured my neck doing a neck flexion stretch. I may have done it too hard. Ever since doing that, I started suffering from headaches rating about a 4 out of 10. I then decided to seek treatment at a chiro facility where I was given a neck pillow(tricore cervical pillow to use) I used that pillow for about one week and decided to get rid of it because it made my neck feel stiff and made my headaches a little worse. About two weeks later, the therapist did a heating treatment for my neck which she had me positioned on the chiro table(I was laying on my stomach and my neck was flexed forward for about 15 minutes. There was a point where I felt discomfort in my neck being in that position. I even told the therapist that my neck gutted a little however, she still decided to continue. Literally about 2 days later, I started to get a spasm at the back of my head radiating up and ever since it’s been that way. Any advice ?

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