How the Body Breaks Down from Chronic Stress and How It Can Be Rebuilt Through Holistic Chiropractic Care
Chronic stress and its far reaching effects on our bodies and minds are common in the daily lives of almost everyone on the planet. It is a contributing element to most major diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression, to name only a few. The American Psychological Association lists seven major systems of the body that are negatively impacted by chronic stress: musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous and reproductive systems.
We have all experienced that when the body itself is stressed, our muscles tense up. It’s our reactive way of protecting our bodies from injury and pain. Chronic ongoing stress that occurs over a period of time causes the muscles to remain more or less in a constant state of guardedness. When muscles remain on high alert for an extended period of time, a cascade effect occurs where other reactions start taking place in the body. You may experience a migraine or tension-type headache associated with chronic muscle tension in the shoulders, neck and head. Chronic stress from your job may induce musculoskeletal pain in the low back and upper extremities.
Musculoskeletal disorders can also result from stress caused by injury or disease. Muscle tension and sometimes muscle atrophy can promote chronic stress-related musculoskeletal conditions.
Stress and strong negatively impacting emotions can cause unhealthy symptoms of shortness of breath and rapid breathing over long periods of time (days, weeks, months or years) as the airway between the nose and the lungs constricts.
Constant stress can contribute to long-term problems for the heart and blood vessels. Chronic elevated heart rate, the production of higher levels of stress hormones and resulting higher blood pressure can cause a breakdown of the body. Those experiencing ongoing stress whether physical, mental, emotional or all three are at greater risk for hypertension, heart attack and stroke.
Chronic stress can result in impaired communication between the immune system and the HPA axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the primary driver of the endocrine stress response) and is linked to the development of many conditions including chronic fatigue, metabolic disorders like diabetes and obesity, depression and, of course, immune disorders.
Butterflies in the stomach describes a stress reaction as the gut composed of hundreds of millions of neurons communicates with the brain and vice versa. Pain, bloating and other intestinal discomfort are symptoms of chronic stress reaction. The intestinal system is also inhabited by millions of friendly flora (bacteria) which directly impact our body's health including the brain’s health affecting both our mood and our ability to think and process clearly. Stress is associated with changes in gut bacteria which in turn can influence mood.
As the autonomic nervous system continues to trigger physical reactions to chronic stress over time this causes actual wear-and-tear on the body. Continuous activation of the nervous system creates a whole host of problems for many of the body’s systems.
Males’ reproductive function can be impaired because of infections (the result of a compromised immune system) to the testes, prostate gland and urethra. Chronic stress experienced over an extended period of time can adversely affect testosterone production causing a decline in sex drive and possibly even there emergence of erectile dysfunction or impotence. Chronic stress has been known to negatively impact sperm production.
In women, high levels of chronic stress may be associated with absent or irregular menstrual cycles, more painful periods and abnormal length of cycles. Both premenstrual and menopausal symptoms may worsen. Chronic stress and resulting distraction and fatigue may reduce sexual desire. Ongoing stress can negatively impact a woman’s ability to conceive, the health of her pregnancy, and her postpartum adjustment. Maternal stress can negatively impact fetal development.
Chiropractic Offers Solutions for Chronic Stress
Chiropractic adjustments affect the whole communication of the nervous and musculoskeletal system of the body. At Wagner Chiropractic, through chiropractic adjustment, we work to assure optimal nervous system communication and improved flow in the areas that ultimately promote rest and digesting function. By supporting proper joint movement and optimal nervous system function of specific areas, we are able to promote the calming elements of the nervous system and take pressure off the overactive sympathetic (fight or flight) component of the nervous system.
After our patients receive a chiropractic adjustment they remark about how much more at ease they feel, a clear sign we are beginning to reduce the effects of chronic stress on the body. When we reboot the nervous system through adjustment, we are able to also release tension in the muscle fibers, restore greater motion to the joints and decrease our patients’ overall chronic stress load.
By simply adding regular chiropractic adjustments to your healthcare routine we can create a significant shift in your health and chronic stress response from compromised and malfunctioning to balanced and resilient.
We should also note the importance of practicing relaxation techniques and other stress-relieving activities and therapies because they are shown to effectively reduce muscle tension, diminish stress-related disorders like headache, and increase an overall sense of wellness and well-being. We offer many of these techniques and therapies at Wagner Chiropractic including nutrition, exercise and lifestyle counseling. Let us be part of your lifestyle improvement team to better deal with life’s stresses. Call us today.
“Stress Effects on the Body.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-body.aspx.
“The organisation of the stress response, and its relevance to chiropractors: a commentary.” Chiropractic and Osteopathy, U. S. National Library of Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1629015