We certainly live in stressful times. It's not easy to assess whether our era is the most stressful, but we do have plenty of daily stress. The job, the home, the kids, the relatives, and the economy - all these stresses add up and yet we wonder why we have so many aches and pains.
So many ailments are stress-related. Americans are notoriously overweight. Overeating is a stress-coping mechanism.1 Headaches and backaches are often associated with increased stress. There's a strong correlation between high blood pressure and stress, ulcers and stress, and even cancer and stress.
What can we do? The external stresses in our lives aren't going away. Our activity-filled lives are busy and complex - there's always going to be stress. The key is to help avoid or ease the physical effects of stress. Interestingly, chiropractic treatment can be of great assistance in reducing the effects of stress on the body.
In general, stress causes muscles to tighten. This is an unconscious reaction. Tight muscles cause a cascade of further muscle tightening, shortening of muscles and ligaments, and a resulting decrease of mobility in joints, particularly shoulder joints, hip joints, and joints of the spine.2,3
This overall mechanical effect of stress has a number of additional consequences. All the extra unconscious muscle activity wastes precious nutritional resources and uses up energy needed for critical body functions. Lactic acid accumulates, irritating nerve endings and further increasing muscular tightness. And, importantly, the losses in spinal joint mobility lead directly to increased levels of pain. This, of course, leads to more stress.
This vicious circle of stress, muscular tightness, and pain can be relieved and reduced by chiropractic treatment.4 Chiropractic therapy is specially designed to improve joint mobility of the spine and pelvis. This gentle, effective treatment gradually restores maximal spinal motion. Muscle tightness is alleviated, metabolic processes begin to return to normal, and nutrients become more available to help maintain healthy functioning. Levels of pain are reduced, and we become better able to withstand the physical effects of stress.
Your chiropractor will explain the many benefits of treatment, and will provide instruction in stretching techniques and specific exercises that help maintain the positive results of therapy.
There will always be stress. We can learn how to reduce the physical effects of stress, and become stronger, healthier, and happier in the process.
Take a Break! A few quick tips -
- Get up out of your chair or leave your workbench and walk over to an open window. Change your point-of-view. Breathe some fresh air.
- Go for a five-minute walk, either in the corridors of your building or out-of-doors.
- Call a friend and chat for five minutes.
- Close your eyes, clear your mind, and take an imaginary vacation - relaxing on a warm beach, deep-sea fishing on a beautiful yacht, or skiing down a gorgeous mountain.
These short, focused breaks will help reduce muscular tightness and physical stress, and also help your brain recharge so you can be more creative and productive!
1Marchesini G, et al: Psychiatric distress and health-related quality of life in obesity. Diabetes Nutr Metab 16(3):145-154, 2003
2Weickgenant AL, et al: Coping activities in chronic low back pain: relationship with depression. Pain 53(1):95-103, 1993
3Burns JW: Arousal of negative emotions and symptom-specific reactivity in chronic low back pain patients. Emotion 6(2):309-319, 2006
4Hurwitz EL, et al. A randomized trial of chiropractic and medical care for patients with low back pain. Spine 31(6):611-621, 2006