Mental health and MSK health
Stress and MSK health
Probably the most common mental health symptom that affects MSK health is stress. A level of stress is a normal part of everyday life but can be linked to mental health in two important ways. Firstly, being over-stressed can develop into a mental health problem such as anxiety. Secondly people with pre-existing mental health problems tend to feel more stressed.
When a person is stressed a number of complex changes occur in the body as a result of increased activity of adrenaline and noradrenaline, and cortisol hormones. These can include changes to the cardiovascular system, digestion, and muscle tissue, as well as an impact on normal sleep. There is a common association, for example, between being stressed and pain in the trapezius muscles around the neck, as these muscles become more active in response to hormonal change.
Feeling stressed is usually associated with changes to everyday life such as increased pressure at work, caring for someone else, worries about housing, education or money. For a detailed overview of the common causes of stress please visit the Mind website here. If these changes involve asking your body to do more, such as an increase in workload or physical activities you are not used to, then the conditions can make you more susceptible to a musculoskeletal problem. This is because your body's normal support systems that help you to cope with an increased demand in physical activity can be compromised by stress.
So what is the best approach in managing MSK symptoms in the presence of stress?
It is really important to acknowledge the link between the two sets of symptoms and target them simultaneously.
You may not be able to remove the cause of your stress, but you can look at ways to improve your ability to cope with it. The Mind website offers detailed advice on dealing with pressure and improving resilience .
Where musculoskeletal pain occurs as a direct result of stress, for example over activity in the trapezius muscles causing neck pain, simple relaxation techniques can yield a significant improvement.
The Laura Mitchell relaxation technique is quick and easy to follow.
The video below takes you through the technique.
A written guide is available here.
Cardiovascular exercise is known to reduce stress and to reduce pain. Staying active therefore can combat both stress and the changes to nutrition and sleep that can contribute to musculoskeletal pain problems when under stress.The video below gives a detailed overview of the benefits.
If your symptoms do not improve, despite following guidance to reduce your stress, including relaxation techniques and staying generally active, it may be worth seeing a Physiotherapst for specific advice and exercises to improve the musculoskeletal problem. To arrange a consultation with us please discuss a referral with your GP.