by Shawn Goodson, PTA
Most of our neck patients have similar symptoms tightness, stiffness, and the last one isn’t even exclusive to people who are patients—headaches. We are all familiar with emotional stress causing headaches, we even have a name for it— tension headache. As we get stressed we tense up, the tightness in your neck and upper back then contributes to the neck pain and headaches. Without treatment this can progress to a chronic condition. Neck pain can be a cause of irritability, fatigue, and even depression that can add a lot of stress to your life. Robert Gotlin, DO and director of orthopedic and sports rehabilitation at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City has stated that “Stress is not the likely cause of neck pain, but it can certainly bring out the symptoms of underlying neck pain.” He goes on to say “Stress has also been shown to influence how people feel pain. If you are under stress, pain can actually feel worse.” Studies also show that the longer your neck pain lasts, the less chance we will be able to return to full activity. So we need to start managing our stress and develop a positive attitude and plan to deal with our daily stresses.
I’m obviously and advocate for activity, but in addition to exercise and a new healthy living plan what can we do to relieve some of these daily stresses? Well one activity that is proven to help relief stress is coloring. That’s right, it not just for kids anymore! Considering the inability to focus is often a symptom of anxiety or stress, it makes sense that adult coloring books would also help with those as well. Coloring elicits a relaxing mindset, similar to what you would achieve through meditation. Like mediation, coloring allows us to switch off our brains from other thoughts and focus on the moment. Dr. Joel Pearson, a brain scientist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, “Concentrating on coloring an image may facilitate the replacement of negative thoughts and images with pleasant ones.”. During a recent study they reported seeing changes in heart rate and changes in brainwaves, adding that part of this neurological response in “colorists” comes from the repetition and attention to patterns and detail associated with coloring. Basically in simplest terms, coloring has a de-stressing effect because when we focus on a particular activity, we focus on it and not on our worries. My professional opinion would be for us to pick up some colored pencils and one of these adult coloring books and set aside some time to de-stress and find our inner child more often!