The link between work stress and neck pain

Q: My neck feels fine on the weekends but starts hurting when I go back to work. My job is demanding but not physically strenuous. Do you think the neck pain is caused solely by stress?

A: Almost everyone has experienced some degree of work-related stress at one time or another. Stress-induced episodes of neck pain will often subside on their own after rest. However, if neck pain caused by stress at work is the norm rather than the exception, some action on your part will be needed to stop this harmful cycle.

Making sure you have a safe outlet for your stress is the best strategy to cope with the pressures of a demanding job. Exercises with an emphasis on postural muscles and relaxation training are a good starting point. Meditation, stretches and aerobic exercises such as walking, swimming or biking are all components of stress management.

A program aimed at managing job-stress should also include an evaluation of your work environment. This is to help identify and eliminate the offending stresses on your neck. Although you can’t make deadlines and obnoxious co-workers disappear, some on-the-job stresses can be eradicated or reduced. For instance, making your work station ergonomically correct and using a headset rather than holding the receiver of the phone up against your shoulder and under your chin will work wonders to reduce neck strain.

The function of some healthcare providers such as chiropractors and occupational therapists is not just to treat you so that you get over neck pain but also to provide advice tailored to your specific job situation. Once the normal feeling and function of your neck is restored, your doctor or therapist will work with you to keep the muscles and joints of your neck in optimum condition to prevent recurrence of neck pain.