Ahhh the dreaded ‘S’ word…
It always seems to be hanging around these days. We can’t seem to shake it.
Some wear it as a badge of honour, while it wears out the rest of us.
It keeps us alert, yet it exhausts us.
It can give us a ‘rush’, yet it burdens us when rushed.
It makes us run faster, yet also cripples us.
In small doses, it saves us. But too much of it is killing us.
We know how to control it, but at the same time, it’s the last thing on our priority list.
You can feel it in your chest as you read this.
It wakes us up; it keeps us up from sleep. It makes our heart beat fast, and our shoulders ache.
It makes our stomachs churn and affects fertility.
It causes us more pain and less peace, yet we’ll likely continue to do nothing about it.
I’m talking about STRESS.
Cue eye roll. “I’ve heard this all before”, my chiropractor is always telling me to address it, but I don’t have time.
Humour me, then. All I ask for is 5 minutes of your time.
What is stress?
Stress is defined as a biological response to a stimulus that threatens homeostasis.
What does this mean? Stress is the response our body has when something threatens the balance within it that keeps us alive.
It does a great job of keeping us alive in dangerous situations (running from a tiger, slamming on the brakes). It’s essential for survival. Yet, it is one of the most common reasons that people seek medical care in today’s society.
But why? After all, we don’t have wild tigers here in Melbourne. We do however, have phones, emails, notifications, desk jobs, stressful jobs, cars, 24hr news, junk food, global pandemics… the list goes on.
This wonderful concoction of small stressors has now morphed into a big imaginary tiger, who follows you around for 16 hours a day, maybe more.
Can you think of all the minor stressors that make up your own imaginary tiger?
What does stress do to our bodies?
Let’s look at the necessary, acute stress first:
What happens in an Acute stress response:
Blood is directed away from the gut and reproductive organs to the muscles and brain. This gears you up to run or fight. – you don’t need to make a baby when a dragon is chasing you.
Heart rate rises, as does blood pressure.
The breathing pattern moves from your diaphragm into your chest to get more oxygen to your muscles.
Blood is directed to your calves and pecs – your running muscles, limbs flex and tighten in order to prepare for quick agile movements.
Your senses are heightened, and reaction times increase.
When Acute turns Chronic.
This is where things get tricky. The above is excellent for the short term; it gets you through a pitch at work, helps win that soccer game, and saves you when you’re in danger. But one thing your body isn’t good at is distinguishing between all the other forms of stress. For example, that fight you had with your partner or the bills that never stop coming.
Problems arise when all of these small stressful stimuli consistently activate the stress response. The repetition causes the essential actions of the stress hormones to be muffled.
So even with elevated stimulation, they can’t keep up.
This is where things head into a ‘Chronic’ state. Over long periods of time this can put you at an increased risk of imflammation/pain, disease, infertility etc.
Signs of Chronic stress:
Tightness in neck and shoulders
Chronic pain / inflammation
Digestion troubles (bloating, constipation or diarrhoea)
Feeling cold in extremities
Headaches and migraines
High blood pressure or racing heart
Food allergies or sensitivities
Menstrual issues / PCOS / infertility
Low sex drive
The list goes on….and on.
Does any of this apply to you? It’s a well-known fact that chronic stress is a precursor to all diseases. It may be time to speak to your Chiropractor.
How it relates to Chiropractic
So, everything I’ve spoken about above is literally controlled by… you guessed it… your nervous system.
This is where the magic of Chiropractic comes in.
Generally, a chiropractic adjustment may help to:
Stimulate your vagus nerve, which helps to lower your stress response
Improve nerve signalling from the brain to the body and vice versa
Improve your breathing pattern, which further settles your nervous system
Create movement in the joints to ease feelings of pain caused by stress
Stress reduction and improved nervous system function improve your bodies ability to cope with stress. It’s a win-win
Chiropractic works from the inside out. It doesn’t need harsh medications or interventions. It simply enables your body to function a little better, so it can get back to doing what it does best. Living!
So, there you have it. In the 5 minutes it took you to read this, you could have completed a stress-reduction technique. Does any of this resonate with you? Book an appointment here.
Schneiderman N, Ironson G, Siegel SD. Stress and health: psychological, behavioral, and biological determinants. Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2005;1:607-628. doi:10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.1.102803.144141
Dr. Ella Smith has a particular interest in the impact that today’s modern lifestyle has on our body.
Her goal is to encourage a lifestyle where we can be, move and think well in a world which demands so much from us. Read more