Stress can be both good or bad. It is a constant presence during our lives and can keep us on our toes, in shape, and poised to perform at our best. However, over-stressing for too can cause serious health problems to develop.

If you’re wondering how stress affects the body and what are some of the best ways to deal with it, read on to find out more.

How Stress Affects the Body: Stress and the Muscles

Stress response hyperstimulation can affect practically every aspect of health–every bodily system, every tissue.

Imagine that you’re trying to finish a project on a tight schedule. Your posture is poor, and you’re hunched back, your shoulder muscles are tight, and your jaws clenched…

These physical exhibitions can all lead to a chronic tightening of the muscles, straining, and overcompensation of muscle groups. Eventually, pain will develop. Due to stress-response hyperstimulation, this can escalate to persistent pain.

In fact, most muscle pains that fail to respond well to medications and physical therapy are most likely due to chronic stress and tension.

This is often considered anxiety muscle tension. Symptoms include twitching, persistent pain, clamping up, and muscle spasms. The severity of the symptoms varies. One person may experience simple discomforts while another may have severe symptoms to the point of intense pain and disability.

Effects of Stress on the Body

physical symptoms of stress

Stress affects the different tissues in the body in various ways. Generally, stress triggers the body’s fight or flight response, which subsequently triggers the release of stress hormones (cortisol). The blood then carries these hormones to target organs where they are given a boost to preserve life and function. This response includes the muscles as well.

Stress hormones promote more blood supply to the muscles and trigger contractions. This causes the muscles to tighten, poised for movement, either for running away or for staying to fight.

This can be very beneficial if the person is facing an immediate threat since it makes the muscles stronger. However, chronic stress response hyperstimulation can cause the muscles to be over-stimulated to the point where they start to break down.

The contractions, as part of the stress response, are meant to be temporary. They are intended to last only for a short period, not indefinitely and certainly not for days, weeks, or even years.

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Why Does Stress Manifest Physically?

Stress can come from various sources. The adverse effects of stress on the muscles are usually caused by both mental and physical stress. Again, go back to the previous example of the need to complete a project on a tight schedule. The thought of having to finish something on time with a short deadline closing in on you is enough to raise your stress levels.

This prolonged stress response takes a toll on the muscles.

The norm for the muscles is to contract for some period, and then get the opportunity to relax. During relaxation, the muscles receive better blood flow. This helps clear the muscles of the buildup of wastes and lactic acid. It also brings nutrients to help the muscles recover from the strain of contraction.

In the contracted state, there is reduced blood flow, which also limits movements.

In response, the muscles become strained. They become less elastic and less able to contract or be stretched during movements. This will lead to overcompensation of adjacent or associated muscles, joints, and tendons. This compensation, like the stress response, is meant to exist only for a short period. Prolonged overcompensation can result in injuries, pain, and limitation in range of motion.

The list of effects goes on, and soon, it will affect all other organs as well.

All these things can happen because of chronic stress.

Physical Symptoms of Stress

The most common issue that people will deal with in this situation is pain.

Movements become limited, and pain starts to become a more frequent presence. Back pains, neck pains, and pain over the various joints can get in the way of normal living. Simple movements such as getting up from bed or sitting down become increasingly difficult.

Worse, pain can eventually become unresponsive to medications. In the beginning, the pain starts as simple, temporary discomforts, which can be easily relieved by rest, change in position, stretching, or medications. As stress continues to be present, the pain gets worse. Movement limitations also worsen.

What You Can Do to Manage Muscle Stress

The best thing to heal your muscles and your body is to lower your stress levels. One way to achieve that is to lower cortisol. This is one of the stress hormones we mentioned earlier.

The adrenal glands produce cortisol. It can benefit the body short term because it allows you to deal with a stressful situation. Still, it becomes detrimental when its levels are elevated over a prolonged period.

1. Sleep

One way to lower cortisol levels is by living a healthier lifestyle. Get enough sleep. It is during sleep that the body resets. Your stress levels go down, and the body starts to relax. This is also the time when the body recuperates and heals itself.

2. Eat Healthily

A healthy diet and proper exercise also help. Certain foods, such as berries and dark chocolate, can help release feel-good hormones that help lower cortisol and improve how you feel. Certain herbs and supplements can help, as well. We usually recommend a herb called Ashwagandha for this purpose.

3. Massage Therapy

muscle stressAnother way to reduce muscle stress and improve muscular health is by getting a massage at Proper stimulation of the muscle tissues can help in promoting relaxation and reduction of the tension caused by physical and mental stress.

How Massage Helps

Believe it or not, the majority of the adverse effects of stress on the muscles can be relieved by a simple massage. Tactile stimulation of the muscles promotes the release of a few hormones that counter the negative effects of stress.

Examples of these hormones are dopamine and serotonin. These are the body’s natural feel-good hormones. Both help relax your muscles and improve your overall mood and well-being.

Some clinical studies were even able to demonstrate how a massage can help reduce stress and lower muscle pain.

These studies showed that a massage session could even reduce heart rate and blood pressure levels. It can even lower insulin and cortisol levels.

These effects also promote the calmness of the mind. The decrease in cortisol allows the muscles to relax. The tension created by the contractions is lowered as well. Blood flow to the muscles improves. This can help reduce pain and brings nutrients that nourish the muscles and improve their functioning.

A word of caution when getting a massage from a professional: Not all massages can help. Massage from an inexperienced person may cause more damage than good. Improper massage techniques may lead to muscle tears, cramps, and other similar problems, so make sure that the massage is performed by someone who has a good understanding of massage therapy.

Take Stress Seriously

Stress is a serious issue. It affects the entire body. Living a healthy lifestyle and eating the right kinds of foods can help lower stress levels and prevent its harmful effects.

When you do start to feel that it’s too much to handle, it’s time to kick your shoes off and get into relax mode with a nice massage, a cup of tea, or some exercise.

Alex Eriksson

Alex Eriksson is the founder of, a men’s health blog dedicated to providing honest and research backed advice for optimal male hormonal health. Anabolic Health aspires to become a trusted resource where men can come and learn how to fix their hormonal problems naturally, without pharmaceuticals. Check out his guide on 50 Foods For Men That Boost Testosterone or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.