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Chiropractic Care for Stress

What Is Stress?

Some of the most stressful things in life are the death of a spouse or loved one, severe or prolonged illness of oneself or a loved one, divorce or separation, mving home or across country, and strangely reconciliation. These great disasters of life aren’t the only things that cause stress. Work related stress, which continues daily, can be very damaging to your health. A poorly functioning relationship, a child with physical or mental problems, even mild can add to the daily stress as well. Simple unhappiness with your life over a long period will also take its toll on your physical health.

physical problems caused by stress

Spinal joints and the surrounding muscles tend to be affected by stress. There are often some minor joint problems in the spine, which do not bother you until a moment of great or continuous stress. Then the brain seems to multiply those minor problems until pain is surrounding the spine either in the shoulders, the mid back or the low back. Often the upper neck muscles and joints are affected and this may result in headaches.

Many people take over the counter medicines in the hope of relief. At first it may help, but in the long run, you are just masking the symptoms and not dealing with the primary causes of the pain.

Spinal manipulation (an adjustment) will gently move the vertebrae away from the nerve. This allows full nerve innervation back to your muscles and brain. Full functioning nerves support self healing, dealing with stress better, and less pain.

Spinal manipulation, together with the understanding we give you of your body and how it responds to mental and physical stress, is the best way to improve and maintain your health on a long-term basis.

For tips on how to respond to stress at home, check out our blog post, “Responding to Stress.”

How we can help

One mother has two children, each with small health problems and a husband who had had a minor illness. She had low back pain and tension in her shoulders and neck. After 3 treatments, she feels 90% better and is able to cope with life much better. Another young man who recently changed his job after being unfairly dismissed, has been hoping to marry his girlfriend. He has had two months of constant headache. Treating his stiff and tender neck and upper back, together with some at home stretching, gave him ne
w hope of a pain free life. After four treatments he now knows how to minimize his headaches and has some coping techniques to lower his stress.

Most noteworthy, we are not saying that every pain and ache is due to stress.  We see people who have been in accidents, have postural and repetitive strain, wear and tear, work and exercise injuries as well. As a result, stress will contribute to further pain if  these injuries aren’t taken care of in the early stages.

If you know someone who is suffering with pain, do not underestimate the damage it can do to them. Pain spoils your mood and ruins your concentration. Not to mention the untold damage it can cause to your digestive, hormonal and cardiovascular systems to name a few. Pain is just a symptom, telling you something is wrong. Covering it up and suffering a long time will harm you. Get some help and if it is joint or muscular pain, come in for an Examination and Consultation. We can help. Call 763.390.1323 today!

Responding to Stress

After decades of research, it is clear that the negative effects associated with stress are real.  Although you may not always be able to avoid stressful situations, there are a number of things that you can do to reduce the effect that stress has on your body.  The first is relaxation. Learning to relax doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are some simple techniques to help get you started on your way to tranquility.

Relaxed breathing

Meditation or Yoga is great for stress!

Have you ever noticed how you breathe when you’re stressed? Stress typically causes rapid, shallow breathing. This kind of breathing sustains other aspects of
the stress response, such as rapid heart rate and perspiration. If you can get control of your breathing, the spiraling effects of acute stress will automatically become less intense. Relaxed breathing, also called diaphragmatic breathing, can help you.

Practice this basic technique twice a day, every day, and whenever you feel tense. Follow these steps:

  • With your mouth closed and your shoulders relaxed, inhale as slowly and deeply as you can to the count of six. As you do that, push your stomach out. Allow the air to fill y
    our diaphragm.
  • Keep the air in your lungs as you slowly count to four.
  • Release the air through your mouth as you slowly count to six.
  • Complete the inhale-hold-exhale cycle three to five times.

Progressive muscle relaxation

The goal of progressive muscle relaxation is to reduce the tension in your muscles. First, find a quiet place where you’ll be free from interruption. Loosen tight clothing and remove your glasses or contacts if you’d like.

Tense each muscle group for at least five seconds and then relax for at least 30 seconds. Repeat before moving to the next muscle group.

  • Upper part of your face. Lift your eyebrows toward the ceiling, feeling the tension in your forehead and scalp. Relax. Repeat.
  • Central part of your face. Squint your eyes tightly and wrinkle your nose and mouth, feeling the tension in the center of your face. Relax. Repeat.
  • Lower part of your face. Clench your teeth and pull back the corners of your mouth toward your ears. Show your teeth like a snarling dog. Relax. Repeat.
  • Gently touch your chin to your chest. Feel the pull in the back of your neck as it spreads into your head. Relax. Repeat.
  • Pull your shoulders up toward your ears, feeling the tension in your shoulders, head, neck and upper back. Relax. Repeat.
  • Upper arms. Pull your arms back and press your elbows in toward the sides of your body. Try not to tense your lower arms. Feel the tension in your arms, shoulders and into your back. Relax. Repeat.
  • Hands and lower arms. Make a tight fist and pull up your wrists. Feel the tension in your hands, knuckles and lower arms. Relax. Repeat.
  • Chest, shoulders and upper back. Pull your shoulders back as if you’re trying to make your shoulder blades touch. Relax. Repeat.
  • Pull your stomach in toward your spine, tightening your abdominal muscles. Relax. Repeat.
  • Upper legs. Squeeze your knees together and lift your legs up off the chair or from wherever you’re relaxing. Feel the tension in your thighs. Relax. Repeat.
  • Lower legs. Raise your feet toward the ceiling while flexing them toward your body. Feel the tension in your calves. Relax. Repeat.
  • Turn your feet inward and curl your toes up and out. Relax. Repeat.

Perform progressive muscle relaxation at least once or twice each day to get the maximum benefit. Each session should last about 10 minutes.

Listen to soothing sounds

If you have about 10 minutes and a quiet room, you can take a mental vacation almost anytime. Consider the following avenues to help you unwind, rest your mind or take a visual journey to a peaceful place.

  • Spoken word. Calm (a Free app)  uses spoken suggestions to guide your meditation, educate you on stress reduction or take you on an imaginary visual journey to a peaceful place.
  • Soothing music or nature sounds. Music has the power to affect your thoughts and feelings. Soft, soothing music can help you relax and lower your stress level.

No one method works for everyone, so try a few apps or songs to find which works best for you.

Exercise

Exercise is a good way to deal with stress because it is a healthy way to relieve your pent-up energy and tension. It also helps you get in better shape, which makes you feel better overall.  By getting physically active, you can decrease your levels of anxiety and stress and elevate your moods.  Numerous studies have shown that people who begin exercise programs, either at home or at work, demonstrate a marked improvement in their ability to concentrate, are able to sleep better, suffer from fewer illnesses, suffer from less pain and report a much higher quality of life than those who do not exercise.  This is even true of people who had not begun an exercise program until they were in their 40s, 50s, 60s or even 70s.  So if you want to feel better and improve your quality of life, get active!

Recognizing Stress

Modern life is full of pressure, stress and frustration. Worrying about your job security, being overworked, driving in rush-hour traffic, arguing with your spouse – all these create stress. According to a recent survey by the American Psychology Association, fifty-four percent of Americans are concerned about the level of stress in their everyday lives and two-thirds of Americans say they are likely to seek help for stress.

You may feel physical stress as the result of too much to do, not enough sleep, a poor diet or the effects of an illness. Stress can also be mental: when you worry about money, a loved one’s illness, retirement, or experience an emotionally devastating event, such as the death of a spouse or being fired from work.

However, much of our stress comes from less dramatic everyday responsibilities. Obligations and pressures which are both physical and mental are not always obvious to us. In response to these daily strains your body automatically increases blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, metabolism, and blood flow to your muscles. This response is intended to help your body react quickly and effectively to a high-pressure situation.

The Stress Response

Often referred to as the “fight-or-flight” reaction, the stress response occurs automat
ically when you feel threatened.  Your body’s fight-or-flight reaction has strong biological roots.  It’s there for self-preservation. This reaction gave early humans the energy to fight aggressors or run from predators and was important to help the human species survive.  But today, instead of protecting you, it may have the opposite effect.  If you are constantly stressed you may actually be more vulnerable to life-threatening health problems.

Any sort of change in life can make you feel stressed, even good change.  It’s not just the change or event itself, but also how you react to it that matters.  What may be stressful is different for each person.  For example, one person may not feel stressed by retiring from work, while another may feel stressed.

How Stress Affects Your Body

In response to stress your body automatically increases blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, metabolism, and blood flow to your muscles. This response is intended to help your body react quickly and effectively to a high-pressure situation.

If stressful situations pile up one after another, your body has no chance to recover. This long-term activation of the stress-response system can disrupt almost all your body’s processes.  Some of the most common physical responses to chronic stress are experienced in the digestive system.  For example, stomach aches or diarrhea are very common when you’re stressed. This happens because stress hormones slow the release of stomach acid and the emptying of the stomach. The same hormones also stimulate the colon, which speeds the passage of its contents.

Chronic stress tends to dampen your immune system as well, making you more susceptible to colds and other infections. Typically, your immune system responds to infection by releasing several substances that cause inflammation.  Chronic systemic inflammation contributes to the development of many degenerative diseases.

Stress has been linked with the nervous system as well, since it can lead to depression, anxiety, panic attacks and dementia. Over time, the chronic release of cortisol can cause damage to several structures in the brain.  Excessive amounts of cortisol can also cause sleep disturbances and a loss of sex drive. The cardiovascular system is also affected by stress because there may be an  increase in both heart rate and blood pressure, which may lead to heart attacks or strokes.

Exactly how you react to a specific stressor may be completely different from anyone else.  Some people are naturally laid-back about almost everything, while others react strongly at the slightest hint of stress.  If you have had any of the following conditions, it may be a sign that you are suffering from stress: Anxiety, Insomnia, back pain, relationship problems, constipation, shortness of breath, depression, stiff neck, fatigue, upset stomach, and  weight gain or loss.

After decades of research, it is clear that the negative effects associated with stress are real.  Although you may not always be able to avoid stressful situations, there are a number of things that you can do to reduce the effect that stress has on your body.

Watch for our next Blog post to learn how to best help your stress!

Call 763.390.1323 to set up an appointment today!

 

Movement & Exercise

Maintaining mobility is critical in order to live free from pain and disability. Maintaining good mobility is not difficult, but it does not happen on its own.

Imagine waking up one morning with a frozen shoulder where you couldn’t move your upper arm more than a few inches in any direction. How much would that impact your ability to do your job? How much would that affect your ability to drive your car or even to dress yourself? How much would that affect your ability to concentrate on anything other than your shoulder? Obviously, if your shoulder did not move correctly, it would have a dramatic impact on your life. Well, the same is true with movement in every part of your body. If things aren’t moving the way they are supposed to move, it will have a negative impact on your ability to function at work, take care of the demands of everyday life, and even your ability to concentrate.

Many patients with severe low back pain report that their pain came on suddenly when they did something as simple as bend down to pet their cat, put on their socks, or pick up the newspaper. Just about everyone would agree that a person’s body should be able to handle such simple movements. So what has happened?

In every one of these cases, the joints of the patient’s body were “all locked up” — they were barely moving at all. When the joints in one area of the body do not move the way they should, other areas of the body are forced to move more in order to compensate. This creates a significant stress on those areas that have to pick up the slack, and it soon leads to pain and inflammation. At the same time, the areas that don’t have normal movement will slowly worsen as the muscles continue to tighten, the joints stick together, and the ligaments and tendons shorten. This leaves the body in a very unstable condition; if left unchecked, this process will continue until the body can hardly move at all. That is how a person comes to suffer flare-ups of pain at the slightest provocation.

Most of us have seen people who have lost most of their normal mobility: they look like bodies have been starched stiff whenever they try to move around. This is especially prevalent among the elderly. Contrary to popular belief, however, this is not an inevitable effect of aging; rather it is the inevitable effect of not maintaining the body’s mobility through exercise, healthy alignment, and body mechanics. There are people in their 60s, 70s, or even older, who are stronger and more flexible than the average person in their 30s, simply because they keep themselves exercising.

Maintaining mobility is critical in order to live free from pain and disability. Maintaining good mobility is not difficult, but it does not happen on its own. Just as in developing a good posture, it is necessary that you perform specific exercises and stretches to keep your muscles, ligaments, and tendons flexible and healthy. In addition, it is necessary that all of the joints in your body are kept moving correctly as well. Although this can be achieved to a great degree through stretching, most people also find routine chiropractic adjustments to be very beneficial.

If you are dealing with long-term chronic pain, it is likely that the last thing you want to think about is exercising. However, staying physically active is important for your overall health and in preventing the onset of other conditions like heart disease and obesity.

An appropriate exercise program can also relieve symptoms associated with chronic pain by boosting your body’s pain-fighting chemicals. It may also reduce your risk of sustaining certain injuries and of developing chronic pain after an injury.

In addition to helping you maintain a healthy weight and strengthening your muscles and heart, exercise provides other benefits for people with chronic pain, including:

  • Reduction in muscle spasms
  • Decrease in inflammation in the joints
  • Improved spinal alignment
  • Strengthened muscles around your joints
  • Prevention of atrophy of your muscles
  • Increased ability to carry out everyday activities
  • Boost in your mood
  • Improved quality of life

Exercise may help alleviate pain associated with many types of conditions, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Certain back problems
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Certain neck problems
  • Osteoarthritis

To gain the benefits of exercise, you should aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity. This includes walking, swimming, bicycling or water aerobics.

In addition to this aerobic exercise, you should do two or more days per week of muscle strengthening exercise. This should work all the major muscle groups of the body, including the arms, shoulders, abdomen, chest, hips and legs.

It is also beneficial to stay physically active throughout the day. This can be done by walking or biking to work, parking farther from the shopping center entrance, taking periodic walks, gardening or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

If you have had a recent injury or suffer from chronic pain, the first step is to visit your primary care doctor for an exam. He or she can suggest an appropriate medical plan to treat your injury or alleviate your chronic pain. Your treatment plan might include visiting your chiropractor and starting an exercise program to help relieve your symptoms. Your chiropractor and primary care physician can work together to develop an exercise program that is suitable for your individual needs.