What Is Stress And How Can Chiropractic Help?
In my years of practice I have seen many patients whose problems are either exacerbated by stress or caused by it. When I was younger, I never realized when I was stressed that something would go wrong with my body physically. I would be puzzled why, but never connected it to what else was happening in my life. I find that many patients, often report intense situations that they suffer from ‘a very stiff and painful neck’.
People are often surprised to hear that whilst we are learning about Chiropractic at university, for good measure, we spend some time studying psychology which gives us a great insight on the effects of stress. We all experienced the effects of stress on our own bodies during examination periods. The college clinic, where we did our clinical year after 4 years of studies, was always full of students around exam time. Funnily, we would often end up treating each other more frequently during the stressful parts of the year.
Now, having treated patients post-graduation, I have a clear picture of what stress can do to our bodies. Daily, my patients display a variety of stress related symptoms. Some of the most stressful things in life are the death of a spouse or loved one, severe or prolonged illness of oneself or a loved one, divorce or separation, moving home or country, and strangely reconciliation. It is not only these things and the great disasters, which cause stress either. Work related stress, which continues daily and can be related to striving for targets or just to do well and keep your job, can be very damaging to your health. A poorly functioning relationship, a child with physical or mental problems, even mild can add to the daily stress as well. Financial worries seem to be making a greater appearance these days. Simple unhappiness with your life over a long period will also take its toll on your physical health. We divide stress into 3 categories:
Commonly, there are 3 main stressors:
PHYSICAL stress – Falls, whiplash, repetitive motions, lack of sleep, lifting your child or overdoing it in the garden are all obvious sources of physical stress. Did you know even the birth process is physical stress for your little one? On top of that we add learning to walk or ride a bike. Accumulated stress fatigues our reserves and eventually leads to unwanted symptoms. Something as simple as playing with your children can trigger an unwanted response. Chiropractic care helps restore your adaptive capacity.
EMOTIONAL stress – Grief, fear, worry and anger are all emotions that affect our entire body. Compare the posture of someone who is sad or depressed to someone who is happy and upbeat. It’s not the actual emotional stress that affects our posture, but our response to it is critical. Chiropractic treatment focuses on reducing tension in your nervous system and can help you respond to the best of your ability.
CHEMICAL stress – These commonly include poor nutrition, carbohydrates, alcohol, bad fats, sugar, tobacco, medication and more so this time of year, pollen. All these substances affect our nervous system subsequently causing problems within the rest of the body.
On a simple level, the spinal joints and the surrounding muscles tend to be strongly affected by stress. There are often some minor joint problems in the spine, which do not bother you until a moment of great or continuous stress. Then the brain seems to multiply those minor problems until huge amounts of pain are surrounding the spine either in the shoulders, the mid back or the low back. Often the upper neck muscles and joints are affected and this may result in strong headaches and stiffness within the upper neck region. If we lack the reserves to adapt to stress in a healthy way, stress begins to take its toll. The spinal cord is very similar to a guitar string. The greater the tension, the higher the note. With each stressor, the muscles and joints tighten. The weakest joints of the spine are forced out of the correct position and the body loses its ability to respond to the full range of human experience. Since many people do not know how chiropractors can help to eliminate spinal and muscular problems, they take over the counter medicines in the hope of relief. At first it may help, but in the long run, you are just masking the symptoms and not dealing with the primary causes of the pain.
If your body reacts by ‘tripping a circuit breaker’ causing your spine to become tense, chiropractic care is likely to help you. Ensuring the spinal problems are corrected, together with the understanding we give you of your body and how it responds to mental and physical stress, is the best way to improve and maintain your health on a long-term basis. However, I am not saying that every pain and ache is due to stress. Of course there is injury from accidents, postural and repetitive strain and wear and tear from work and exercise to consider as well. All of these situations come to us daily and we help the patients to get better. What I am saying is that especially, if the patient does not find help early in the pain stage, the whole problem will be made worse by the simple stress of feeling pain and not knowing how to get rid of it. If you know someone who is suffering with pain, do not underestimate the damage it can do to them. It spoils your mood, ruins your concentration and can do untold damage to your digestive system, your hormonal system and cardiovascular system to name but a few. Pain is just a symptom. Not a nice one, but it is telling you something is wrong. Covering it up and suffering a long time will harm you. Get some help and if it is joint or muscular pain, come and take a check up with us. We can help.