If you are waking up tired, exhausted after work or needing alcohol to try and turn off at the end of the day, the chances are you know you’re stressed. Stress is the difference between what you want and what you’ve got- unfortunately the effects of stress can affect your health. Most people think of stress as just being emotional but research shows whether stress is emotional, physical or chemical they are all have the same effect physiologically – they increase your stress hormones.
At Back-in-Action we will try and help you deal with the cause of your stress more effectively. For people suffering from emotional tension and inability to relax, we approach their problems primarily through lifestyle advice rather than chiropractic manipulation. We also often suggest nutritional interventions to provide the body more of what it is burning up too quickly. If there are physical restrictions in joint movements, postural problems or nervous system imbalances we will also aim to correct these.
The primary focus of chiropractic in helping people reporting stress related conditions, is on the musculoskeletal manifestations of stress and anxiety. These can include joint and muscular tension (particularly in the shoulders and upper back) and back pain. The treatment of these conditions by chiropractors is well documented and can involve a range of treatment interventions including manual therapies (chiropractic, massage, mobilisation), acupuncture, exercise prescription, physical rehabilitation strategies, therapeutic advice, physical exercise, functional neurological approaches, brain based exercises, patient education and onward referral. Chiropractors may also provide lifestyle advice to help with nutrition and relaxation.
Chiropractors are trained to take a full case history and identify any bio-psycho-social factors that may influence a patient’s response to care. These are sometimes known as yellow flags. Where these are thought to have an influence on the patient’s condition, chiropractors may recommend utilising co-management strategies with other healthcare professionals such as counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, homeopathy or medical referral.
How Stressed Am I?
Your answers to the following questions can give your practitioner some feedback on your level of stress. In practice we find dealing with these problems is often essential for helping you to respond well to the treatment programme. Depending on your level of stress we will recommend you adopt a variety of different self-help measures to help you recover.
Stage 1 – Normal Adrenal Response
Possibly tired after a long day
Feels okay after relaxing
Stage 2 – Chronic Stress Response
Tired at the end of the day
Needs work out or alcohol to relax and “turn off”
Wakes up still tired, but recovers after a while
(especially with caffeine or sugar)
Stage 3 – Advanced Stress Response
Come home tired
Can’t “turn off”
Don’t sleep well – insomnia
No dreams during sleep
Wake up tired, but recover with stimulants
Unstable blood sugar
General aches and pains worsening
Stage 4 – Adrenal Fatigue
Come home exhausted
Too tired to exercise
Sleep hard but don’t dream well
Or can’t sleep (can’t turn brain off)
May wake at 3-5am
Need toilet urgently on waking
Don’t recover at all during day
Need caffeine before facing anyone
Sex drive reduced
How Does The Stress Response Affect Me Physiologically?
In the short term, the stress response is a natural healthy reaction to help you cope with life. However if this response is maintained for too long, it can start to deplete the body and it is thought that if chronic, it may increase the risk of a variety of common illnesses.
1. If your system detects a physical threat or a toxicity or deficiency (which can be physical, chemical or neurological), the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is activated to switch on the stress response (fight or flight response).
The SNS increases heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar level.
2. The Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) which controls rest, digest, healing and procreation, is turned down.
3. The SNS directly stimulates the adrenals to release the stress hormones. These stress hormones (Adrenaline and Cortisol) –
- Increase the amount of blood through the heart which along with constriction of the arteries by the SNS increases blood pressure, allowing rapid fuel delivery to deal with stress.
- Stimulates the part of the brain involved with emotion/anxiety so traumatic memories dominate (we remember to look for the tiger next time we are at the water hole).
- Switches of the ability to learn facts, hold information in our head and focus our attention (memory related areas of the brain start to shrink).
- During periods of stress we selectively sore excess fat on hips and thighs.
- Stress hormones effect insulin receptors to keeps blood sugar level high for ‘fight or flight’ but if chronic can lead to disease.
- Causes breakdown of protein stores (muscle) to form glucose.
- Effect the gene for HDL production and reduces the number of LDL receptors so less LDL gets taken out of the blood stream.
4. Increased cholesterol production during stress is important to-
- Form steroid based hormones.
- Heal wounds
- Mood regulation
5. The part of the brain involved with emotion/anxiety if stimulated leads to the release Noradrenalin. Noradrenalin is a chemical which-
- Turns down brain areas important for logical behaviour and short term memory (STM)
- Stimulates centres for emotional learning and instinctive behaviour, causing an increased awareness of the sensory system
- Improves chances of survival
- Increases distraction
- Increases pain pathway sensitivity which increases physical and emotional pain
6. Other effects of the stress response:
- Increases chemicals which cause blood clotting
- Decreases (cellular) immunity
- Decreases serotonin – a reduction in this is often associated with depression
- Decreases REM sleep – this is often associated with dreaming
- Increases secretion of calcium and magnesium. Amongst other things calcium and magnesium have a role in bone density, muscle tone and quality of sleep. Magnesium has a role blood sugar level control.
6 Stress Prevention Strategies Suggested By Scientific Studies
- Seek and kill
- Take a few minutes every day to identify the stressors in your life and find ways to reduce or eliminate them. Does that old phone cell of yours make you swear because that battery keeps dying? Get a new phone?
- Commit to the positive
- In our culture, people often try to cope with stress in self-destructive ways, mainly by drinking, taking drugs or overeating. Commit to avoiding the self destructive solutions – for a day, a week or whatever you can handle – and replace them with a positive healthful ways of managing stress. Yoga class anyone?
- Be your own personal secretary
- People who keep lists of things to do really do more things. So use your smartphone or, in a pinch, a pen and paper (remember those?) to keep a list of things to do. You’ll never walk out of a supermarket again, having purchased everything except what you went to buy.
- Immunise yourself
- Through exercise, thought management and the daily practise of relaxation techniques, you’ll be in a better position to face stressors without feeling stress. Lion tamers manage to remain calm when working with lions after all. With the right preparation, you can face almost any situation calmly.
- Make a little plan
- Spend a few minutes every morning planning your day. You’ll waste less time, get more done and feel less stressed.
- And make a big plan
- The famous behavioural psychologist B.F. Skinner not only planned his day and year, he even maintained a 10-year planner. You don’t need to got that far, but planning your future is a great way of exercising more control over your life. The more control you have, the less stressed you will feel.
For further help with distressing you might want to consult with one of our practitioners who have skill and experience in helping people reduce their stress.
From the Preston Chiropractor Team
Getting You Back in Action & Enjoying Your Life Again
Serving the people of Preston and surrounding areas including Southport and Lytham St Annes