At the moment there are plenty of stressed out employees who fear losing their jobs or who now have an increased workload. Stress, caused by all manner of things, from the credit crunch to personal problems can cause real physical pain for people. It is the cause of many illnesses.
The body is good at self-medication for short bouts of stress, but long term stress cannot be coped with adequately. Stress (both short and long term) can be the cause of pain (e.g. a bad day at work can bring on a migraine). The word stress comes from the Latin word 'stringere', which means 'to draw tight', and constant stress causes the muscles to become tight, resulting in pain.
The actual cause of stress-related pain is the brain. When you are feeling stressed, the brain releases cortisol, adrenaline and other hormones that for increase heart rate, blood pressure, sweating and respiration. The point of this is to get the body ready for action as part of the fight or flight response. These hormones also make muscles tense up, which can cause aches and irritate nerves.
The neck is particularly prone to stress-related pain, partly because it's already bearing the weight of your head. Neck pain may start with bad habits like squeezing the phone between your shoulder and your ear which can cause a stiff neck, but tension in the muscles makes the problem worse, often causing pain to radiate. Mental stress is strongly linked to the likelihood of experiencing radiating neck pain. Luckily, there are some exercises that you can do to help alleviate the problem yourself but it is a good idea to see a physiotherapist too.
To help yourself, try this technique: whilst sitting or standing straight, lower your chin to your chest, letting the weight of your head gently stretch tense muscles at the back of the neck.
Stress caused all manner of muscle pain but also more serious conditions such as heart problems and depression. As soon as you can do something about the reason for your stress, then do it, and keep on top of the symptoms by using relaxation techniques and consulting a physiotherapist or doctor as applicable. Physiotherapists can treat neck pain using manual lymph drainage and connective tissue manipulation, and a doctor can prescribe painkillers and other treatments.