The modern world is becoming increasingly complex, and the demands on our time and attention are many. Our jobs are also more complex, and the business world has become more competitive. With the industrial age came helpful machines and increased productivity, but it also brought us the jackhammer, the loudspeaker, the motorcycle and car, and innumerable noisy machines. Physical stresses such as sound, air and water pollution have worsened over the last century, especially in the United States. We are also, because of electronic media and the Internet, aware of troubles and tragedies around the world that previous generations would never have known about, creating anxiety. Taken together, these assaults on our senses create a physical and emotional reaction.
The word for this overwhelming feeling is stress. It’s a term borrowed from the field of engineering, in reference to physical forces upon mechanical structures. 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 recognizing that many illnesses are caused by stress, or worsened by stress. In fact, in every chiropractic office, 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.
The different factors that create stress:
A whiplash injury from a c
ar accident is an obvious source of physical stress. As is repetitive motions, a slip and fall, lack of sleep or overdoing it in the garden. Early on, learning to walk, ride a bike and the birth process itself are sources of physical stress.
It’s not the stress—it’s your reaction to it that matters!
Accumulated stress exhausts our reserves. Then, something as simple as mowing the lawn can put us over the edge. Chiropractic care helps restore your adaptive capacity.
Fear, grief, anger and other emotions affect our entire body. Notice the posture of someone who is sad or depressed. Frustration, or a sense of powerlessness at work, is a common form of emotional stress.
Clearly, it’s not the stress, but our response to it that is critical. Chiropractic care, because its focus is to reduce tension to your nervous system, can help you respond more resourcefully.
Common sources of chemical stress include poor nutrition, sugar, refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats. Drugs, preservatives, tobacco, alcohol, vaccinations, pollen and a host of other substances also affect our nervous systems, muscle tone and our spine.
The problem isn’t the pollen or chemical. Because not everyone reacts. Symptoms can appear when you lose your ability to adapt. Chiropractic care has helped millions reduce or eliminate reactions to many types of chemical stress
If you lack the reserves to adapt to stress in a healthy way, it takes a toll. If your body reacts by “tripping a circuit breaker,” causing vertebral subluxation, chiropractic care is likely to help.
Martini caption: Clearly, chemical stress can affect our muscle tone, coordination and the way our nervous system works.
How can stress affect my spine?
Think of your spinal cord as a guitar string. The greater the tension, the higher the note. Your nervous system has “tone” as well. With each stressor, your body tightens up, like bracing yourself for a tight curve on a roller coaster. The weakest joints of your spine are forced out of their normal position. Like the shrill notes from an over-tightened string, your body loses its capacity to respond to the full range of human experience. And ill health can result.
Effects of Stress on Health
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.
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 Treatment 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, and that 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.
Dr Sandhu has been studying nutrition and other therapies for stress. Several nutritional supplements, including B vitamins, help the body cope with stress. As can relaxation techniques, coupled with posture and environmental changes to help recovery from chronic stress.
Unfortunately we cannot make a job less stressful, or create a quieter, calmer world. What chiropractic treatment can do is help you develop healthy responses to stress, reducing potential physical damage.
Chiropractic is based on the concept that given the opportunity, the mind and body can heal itself. In relieving some of the effects of chronic stress, chiropractic care provides just such an opportunity. So why not get yourself booked in for an initial consultation for only 10 and let’s see what we can do.