What do pain and relaxation have to do with each other? At first glance, maybe not very much, but there's more to it than that. There are two main reasons why tension can make pain worse:
- Your nervous system reacts differently when you are tense.
- Tension can easily lead to muscle tightness (for too long).
Let's start with the first point. Our nervous system works differently when we are tense or relaxed. Simply put, the body makes it easier for dangerous stimuli (the stimuli that can cause pain) to get to our brain when we are tense. Also, our brain is more likely to decide to cause pain when we are tense. It is more likely to scream "DANGER" when tension or stress is high. So relaxation ensures that fewer dangerous stimuli get to the brain (they are stopped earlier in the body) and that the brain reacts less strongly to dangerous stimuli. A double benefit!
The second point is that tension and stress easily lead to (long) muscle tension. Almost everyone has weak points in the body that quickly "play up" when stressed. The shoulder blades, lower back, pelvis or sometimes the face or jaw are affected. Often these are places that remain unconsciously tense when stressed, with the excessive muscle tension exhausting the muscle and causing pain.
Three ways to relax
Reason enough to take good care of our nervous system and muscles! You can do this in the following ways:
- Start doing regular relaxation exercises. An accessible and good exercise to deal with tension in the body can be found here.
- Consciously schedule relaxing activities. Take a walk in between, have a coffee with a good friend, take a break - even if you feel like you still have a lot to get done.
- Take an online class or join a community where relaxation plays an important role. Do a 30-day yoga challenge, a mindfulness class, or work with your physical therapist on relaxation.