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Five Places Where Stress Can Hide in the Body: A Guide from Rebalance Physical Therapy

In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, stress has become an unwelcome companion, impacting not just our mental well-being but also manifesting physically in various parts of our body.

stress in body

At Rebalance Physical Therapy, we frequently encounter individuals dealing with tightness and overactivity in the muscles and fascia associated with the Deep Front Line. This continuous pathway traverses crucial areas from our feet to the sides of our head, making it particularly sensitive to stressors. Let’s explore five places where stress tends to hide and learn how to combat its physical manifestations.

  1. Temporalis Muscle: The Jaw Clencher’s Dilemma

Ever wake up with a sore jaw or catch yourself clenching your teeth throughout the day? The culprit might be the temporalis muscle, our strongest chewing muscle. Overactivity can lead to temperomandibular joint dysfunction, headaches, neck pain, altered bite patterns, and tooth damage. If your dentist has pointed out teeth grinding, it’s time to address the stress contributing to this muscle’s hyperactivity.

  1. Scalenes: Neck Muscles Under Pressure

The scalene muscles near the neck play a crucial role in our neurovasculature. Overactivity in these muscles, often associated with stress-induced suboptimal breathing patterns, can lead to numbness, tingling, pain, and decreased circulation in the arms or hands. Recognizing and addressing stress is essential to prevent these issues.

  1. Diaphragm: The Unseen Stress Contributor

The primary respiratory diaphragm, responsible for our breathing, can be affected by stress, leading to various movement dysfunctions and pathologies. Tightness in the diaphragm is linked to neck pain, shoulder pain, ribcage pain, low back pain, hip pain, and postural changes. Breathing exercises can help restore balance, promoting relaxation in this vital muscle.

  1. Psoas: The Notorious Tight Spot

The psoas muscle, often blamed for lower back issues, is closely tied to the stress-response system of our body—the Deep Front Line. Despite endless stretching and gadgets, understanding the connection to stress is crucial for effective relief. This article provides recommendations for addressing persistent psoas tightness.

  1. Pelvic Floor: Balancing Act Gone Wrong

Dysfunction in the pelvic floor muscles can lead to a host of problems. Overactivity and tightness are common issues, hindering the proper coordination of functions. Recognizing and addressing stress is key to restoring the balance needed for the pelvic floor to function optimally.

Combatting Stress:

Addressing stress is imperative for alleviating physical manifestations. Three key concepts are highlighted:

  1. Optimizing Emotional Stress Response: Understanding the connection between emotional stressors and physical symptoms is crucial. Seeking support from mental health professionals or exploring mindfulness meditation can provide valuable tools for navigating stress.
  2. Improving Breathing Mechanics: Conscious control of our breath is a powerful tool to regulate the autonomic nervous system. Whether through yoga, specific breathing exercises, or mindfulness techniques, becoming aware of breathing patterns can aid in stress relief.
  3. Soft Tissue Massage and Release: When emotional and breathing interventions aren’t sufficient, mechanical methods like self-massage, myofascial release, and dry needling can help relax stubborn, stress-induced tight areas. Dry needling, in particular, may offer a strong down-regulation effect on an overactive sympathetic nervous system.


While stress is inevitable, chronic physical maladies don’t have to be. Rebalance Physical Therapy encourages individuals experiencing elevated stress or dealing with persistent physical issues to consider the outlined concepts and reach out to appropriate professionals for support. By addressing stress at its roots, we can pave the way for a healthier, more balanced life.

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