Muscular Tension Caused by Stress

The impact emotions can have on the human body is extensive. In today's article, we'll see how stress can affect yout body and what you can do to fight the effects of stress so it doesn't contribute to muscular tension.
Muscular Tension Caused by Stress
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Do you get a neck ache often, even when you’ve just been working sitting down with good posture? Have you noticed that your jaws sometimes ache when you’re stressed out due to too much work? If your answer is yes, it’s likely that you suffer from stress-related muscular tension. It’s a physical manifestation of a common health problem that’s affecting a lot of people.

The article “Academic Stress” outlines many psychological symptoms that stress can cause. It notes that stress is like a series of demands on the body that can provoke a feeling of pressure, loss of control, and exhaustion.

These demands can sometimes be so taxing on the body that they appear as physical symptoms. This is the reason why stress can cause back pain, aching jaws, and headaches.

An important problem

The fact that many people suffer from muscular tension caused by stress has resulted in a “normalizing” of the problem. Among the people who are affected, a good number of these assume that things just have to be this way. Therefore, they don’t try to find out how to fix the problem or find out if they can do anything about it. This is really just the dark side of acceptance: resignation.

What are some of the warning signs that your body is telling you you’ve taken on too much work? Tension in the shoulders is one of them. You might note that they feel stiff with contracting muscles that often reach up into the neck as well.

Stress can cause shoulder and back pain

Have you ever seen someone roll their shoulders and move them around while they’re massaging them? At first, it could just appear as a slight annoyance. But if you don’t work to reduce your stress, over time, this can become a real and chronic discomfort.

Also, if you’ve felt excessively stressed at some point, you might have noticed that the muscles in your legs become tight and contracted. Although it might just seem like a minor thing, this can cause cramps and even make you lose sleep at night. You might identify with these unpleasant episodes.

“Stress should be a powerful conductive force, not an obstacle.”

-Bill Philips-

Muscular tension and injuries caused by stress

It might seem like an exaggeration, but it isn’t. When stress increases muscle tension, it can actually be a risk factor in muscle-related injuries and tears.

This is something that athletes are familiar with, since they spend a good deal of time gently stretching their muscles when they finish an intense training session. The purpose of this is to relax their muscles, not increase flexibility.

But what about when someone suffers from muscular tension caused by stress? Well, since they haven’t actually been exercising, they don’t realize they need to stretch their muscles. However, the muscles are still stiff and, therefore, can be susceptible to injuries or tears.

Stress prevention and reduction to reduce muscular tension

If you don’t take adequate measures to reduce and prevent the stress that causes muscular tension, physical symptoms will get worse. For instance, imagine you were to go see a physiotherapist. Really, it would be something like putting a band-aid on a deep wound. Superficial treatment won’t do any good if you don’t also treat the root cause; in this case, stress.

How can you reduce the stress in your life? You’ll need to take certain measures that may seem simple on the surface, but that will require conscious and ongoing efforts. However, although it might seem like a lot of work, these actions will bring about important changes that will help you to feel better.

  • Relaxation techniques. From meditation to mindfulness and yoga, you have a wide variety of options at your disposal. Choose different methods to help you relax and free up the stress and tension that your body accumulates. Active pauses while you’re working are also an excellent opportunity for relaxation techniques.
  • Practice assertiveness. If you can say no, do so. We often have this option at our disposal, but our search for recognition and the approval of others can hinder our saying no. Don’t put your health at risk for the sake of this.
  • Cognitive restructuring. This is an excellent tool that psychologists make use of when treating someone. It has to do with putting distance between yourself and a stressful situation. The goal is to identify what’s feeding the stress and then work out a better way to face the situation.
Relaxation techniques are useful for reducing stress

How changing your environment can reduce stress

Lastly, we’d like to remind you of something very important. When you’re far away from the environment that causes stress, you’re able to focus on the present moment.

For instance, why not focus on positive things, such as the nature that surrounds you when you go for a walk in the park? Or on how good you feel when you work out at the gym? And what about the happiness you feel when you work on a project with friends? Of course, apart from these suggestions, you may find help to relieve your stress by talking to a professional.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.