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Muscular Effects of Stress

Updated on March 20, 2011

The stressed and depressed hold themselves quite differently and also move differently from other people due to the constant tension that is affecting their muscles. This build-up of tension can cause all sorts of pain in the body of the stressed.

Headaches and tension

The tension caused by generalized anxiety results in headache, both tension headaches and migraine; anything that may increase tension is likely to precipitate migraine. Migraine is the type of headache that follows a contraction of the blood vessels in the brain, followed by over-dilatation of them. At the stage of constriction of the blood vessels, there are often 'fortification spectra' -lines, dots, dashes, wavy vision. Other people may notice a transitory weakness in a limb.

Once the blood vessels have dilated, the brain becomes swollen and there is a throbbing headache, nausea and sometimes actual vomiting. The acute attacks may be cut short by taking drugs that alter this pattern of blood-vessel constriction followed by dilatation. They cause a long-lasting constriction so that the other symptoms never follow; for this reason, they are not prescribed for people who suffer from narrowed coronary arteries.

There are few compensations for growing older, but one of them is that the nature of migraines experienced by a sufferer changes. A patient whose brain has begun to shrink suffers the preliminary symptoms, but since there is room for the shrunken brain to expand within the skull, they avoid the throbbing headache and the nausea (similarly, hangovers are no longer accompanied by a splitting headache the next day).

Tension headaches are a different problem. They stem from holding the muscles in the back of the neck too tight. If there is any wear and tear in the joints in the neck, this compounds the muscular ache. 

Back pain

Just as tension and stress put a strain on the joints in the neck, so they do in those of the back. Any disc lesion, such as a prolapsed intervertebral disc, will give rise to trouble if the back is held too stiff and awkwardly. Many patients with backache swear by exercises to help their problems. One of the causes why these may be useful is the relaxation that follows the exercises.

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