Common Conditions

Stress and anxiety

Today, the overwhelming pressure of careers, deadlines, conflicts, and the demands on our time and money, take a huge toll on our life.

The word for this overwhelming feeling is stress. The term was first used in its modern medical sense around the turn of the 20th century by Walter Cannon, a Harvard physiologist. Cannon also first described the "fight or flight" syndrome, and noted the damaging physical effects of a continuous stress response. Modern healthcare is increasingly recognising that many illnesses are caused by stress, or worsened by stress. In fact, in every chiropractic clinic, many patients will show the ravages of chronic stress. While chiropractic can treat the effects of stress on the body, such as headaches, it can also help the body manage and process stress in a healthy way.

Stress, whether physical or perceived, triggers a fight or flight response. This is a systemic physical reaction, affecting almost every part of the body. The hypothalamus, a part of the brain, stimulates the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The heart rate increases, blood volume and blood pressure increase, blood is directed away from digestion and the extremities. Vision becomes more focused, hearing more acute. In response to the messages from the SNS, the adrenal glands secrete corticoids, including adrenaline, epinephrine and norepinephrine. All of this is very useful if we're running from a prehistoric raptor, or confronting a more modern threat to physical safety. When prolonged, however, the long-term effects of this state can be disastrous to good health. This is what we call Sympathetic dominance.

Many studies of people who have been subjected to chronic stress have found evidence of the negative health effects of stress. These effects include high blood pressure, damage to muscle tissue, diabetes, infertility, damage to the immune response, and slowed healing from disease and injury. Stress reactions are also at the root of disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, and stress has been linked in human and animal research with cardiovascular disease.

Chiropractic and Stress

Chiropractors work primarily with the spine, the root of the nervous system through which nerve impulses travel from the brain to the rest of the body. One effect of chronic stress is prolonged muscle tension and contraction. This muscle tension creates uneven pressures on the bony structures of the body, often leading the misalignment of the spinal column, known as subluxations in the Palmer tradition of chiropractic.

Chronic stress also leads to nerve irritation. The adjustments of a chiropractor release muscle tension, which helps the body return to a more balanced, relaxed state. Adjustments also reduce spinal nerve irritation, and improve blood circulation. These changes may be enough, in many cases, to convince the brain to turn off the fight or flight response, beginning the process of healing. A healthy and balanced spine is one key to effectively managing stress.

How to beat stress?

1. Remember to breathe….properly
Just because you are breathing, doesn’t mean you are doing it properly. Deep breathing allows for the vital exchange of gases like oxygen, as well as relaxation of muscles.

2. Keep good posture
Have you noticed how people suffering from stress or depression almost always have poor posture? Research shows, by just simply changing your posture, you will notice a change in your stress levels.

3. Exercise regularly
There is plenty of research that shows people who exercise regularly experience less stress. Try taking a 30min walk daily or a couple of yoga classes a week.

4. Have a purpose for your life
Too often we get caught up in the “stuff” of a day-to-day living, instead of focusing positively on what is really important. Write a purpose statement for yourself and watch your stress change.

5. Nurture your physical being
Eat wholesome foods, get plenty of rest and keep your body balanced with regular chiropractic adjustments. Eating well, thinking well and moving well will ensure that you are always well!