Stress-induced body pain and hypoarousal
July 1, 2018 10:37 AM   Subscribe

I'm in the process of a very difficult change right now. I'm doing very well, but I'm noticing some stress responses I'd like to improve. I'm having lots of pain in my neck/shoulder/back, and I'm also feeling hypo-aroused often (feeling lethargic, zoning out for ages, etc.). Here's what I'm already trying. I know you're not my doctor, therapist, etc.

I'm trying to relieve pain and tension (neck, shoulders, back), breathe better, and give myself more ways to manage stress. I'm open to exercises, breathing techniques, bodywork, etc. I'm iffy about chiropractors but am sure some good ones are out there. I'll add that the shoulder pain is only in my right shoulder at the base of my neck. The muscles feel very tense there to the touch.
-I had the body pain checked out by a doctor, who agreed it's likely caused by stress. She prescribed Robaxin to help relax my muscles.
-I've also been taking tylenol. I'm supposed to avoid NSAIDS if I can help it because I take lithium.
-I have a therapist and have also been seeing my minister for extra support. Seeing as it's vacation season, appointments haven't been as regular.
-I've been doing yoga at home. The poses I've mostly been doing are lateral stretches, the Eagle, shoulder rolls, and the Locust. I'd be appreciative of other pose recommendations, especially ones that help open up my ribcage. (Bessel van der Kolk mentions opening up the ribcage here in re: treatment for hypoarousal.)
-I've found some yoga classes to try.
-I have a great acupuncturist (who, again, is away right now). I can see her at the end of the week.
-I like massages but the good place where I live (Blacksburg, VA) stays booked.
-I'm trying to improve my posture by making sure my neck/head stay stacked on my body. I'd welcome any postural changes I could make to reduce tension, especially any tips for sleeping posture (and how to maintain it).
-I've been doing grounding exercises, especially when I catch myself zoning out. Mostly I've been working with my senses for that. (In the hypoarousal, I'm not reliving a certain time of the past;I'm just groggily staring into space.) I'm trying to be patient with myself, but it's frustrating that I can't get anything done because of this.

As you can see, I'm trying plenty of things, and I know I"m better with them than without them. But I'd love to add to my toolbox with more ideas for alleviating the pain, tension, and zoning out.
posted by mermaidcafe to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Yoga With Adriene’s short Yoga for the Upper Back video helps me so much with this kind of neck and shoulder tension, especially if I do it for three or so days in a row.
posted by bananacabana at 11:10 AM on July 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

Number one, see if you can get a rec to a Physical Therapist because they are GENIUS for helping you eliminate this type of pain, better than any meds or acupuncture. That's the referral you desperately need and I hope you can get it.

In the meantime, a quick google brought this up for your area. Being in class with a larger group is often more transformative than working alone without a teacher. I think kundalini yoga is A+ on stress and that's why I recommended this teacher, but anything that includes exercise and breathwork is extremely effective. Kundalini is good because you don't need a yoga body and the poses are very adaptable. There is a specific exercises/breathing meditation for your issue and I urge you to check out a class to connect with a practitioner.
posted by jbenben at 11:16 AM on July 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you don't have any mobility limitations otherwise, so two exercises I would recommend are cat and camels and shoulder dislocations (I use an old inner tube). That whole video is probably good for what you're talking about.
posted by rhizome at 11:27 AM on July 1, 2018

Something I put together for myself a couple years ago about anxiety and hypoarousal: when I'm anxious, I hold my breath. Holding your breath reduces your blood oxygen levels/increases blood co2 (plus also triggers your brain that Something's Up and you start low-powering all auxiliary systems), which makes you sluggish and dazey. Breathing helps, obviously, and I find that standing - even if I stand supported on a counter or against a wall - for a few minutes helps too. I wear a watch that gripes at me to stand up every hour if I haven't, and I use that as a sign to take 5 minutes to get up and refresh my water glass and go look out a window or go outside to see the sun, say hello to one of my dogs, etc.

But I'm also like this a lot when I'm sleeping badly, which also flares up an ancient shoulder injury, so make sure you're prioritizing sleep/sleep hygiene, get sleep assistance if you need to, and audit your pillow situation to make sure it's not failing to support your neck and then jacking up the whole system.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:49 PM on July 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

re: sleeping posture for side sleepers - I got one of the memory foam cervical neck pillows on the advice of my acupuncturist, and I started sleeping hugging a standard-sized pillow to keep my shoulders from caving forward when I sleep.

I also try to limit muscle relaxants to overnight because they make me dopey (and to make sure I'm getting good sleep / not waking up with pain) and use NSAIDS and stick on heat patches during the day. The brand name heat patches are better - the cheaper ones weren't shaped for use on the neck (just rectangles) and didn't stick as well / transfer as much heat.
posted by momus_window at 6:38 PM on July 1, 2018

This yoga video is my go-to for releasing upper back tension.
posted by tace at 7:59 PM on July 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

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