Pressure on the job, money difficulties, health crises, relationship troubles, media overload and many other environmental factors can weigh on us. We also generate stress internally, with poor nutrition and sleep deprivation.
Every chiropractor sees patients who’ve been ravaged by chronic stress. More than three-fourths of Americans regularly endure its physical symptoms, and one third characterize their stress levels as “extreme.”
Whether emotional or environmental, stress causes damage. It interferes with the professional and personal lives of nearly half our population,and its impact on the body can lead to long-term problems such as spinal misalignment. Stress plays a role in so many modern diseases that some experts estimate it accounts for half the nation’s healthcare-related expenses, says U.S. News & World Report.
Fortunately, chiropractic care can help. Regular visits to the chiropractor can help release stored tension in the body, relieve the symptoms of stress and reduce the damage it deals.
How Stress Affects the Body
Regardless of the cause, stress initiates a fight-or-flight response that affects nearly every part of the body. The brain rouses the sympathetic nervous system, causing the heart rate, blood volume and blood pressure to increase. This diverts blood away from the digestive system and limbs. The adrenal glands also issue a cocktail of chemicals, including adrenaline, epinephrine and norepinephrine, which over time can wreak havoc on a person’s health.
Persistent tension can also cause muscles to contract and the spine to become locked in an abnormal position, interfering with the nervous system’s proper functioning. This can impair the body’s immune response and slow healing.
A secondary problem with stress involves the poor habits people adopt when they’re under prolonged stress. “People who are under stress are more likely to gain weight and to smoke, and are less likely to sleep well or exercise,” which can lead to cardiovascular and other diseases, says Noel Bairey Merz, director of the Cedars-Sinai Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center in Los Angeles.
How Chiropractic Care can Help
Chiropractic training equips doctors with powerful tools against stress. By working with the spine, the base from which stress impulses radiate throughout the body, a chiropractor can help their patients cope better with stress.
“Proper spinal alignment is the first step for reducing stress,” said Kentucky chiropractor Dr. Kevin Lynch. “When the spine is misaligned, the nervous system is unable to properly send messages through the body. Better spinal alignment means better communication and increased system efficiency.”“In addition to regular chiropractic care, regular exercise will lower levels of hormones and chemicals that build up from periods of intense stress,” said Dennis Malik, M.S., D.C., assistant professor at Palmer Chiropractic Clinics. “You may also see other changes such as being in a better mood, less insomnia and improved self-image, and a better connection with nature if you exercise outdoors.”
Chiropractic adjustments release muscle tension, soothe irritated spinal nerves and improve blood circulation—changes that can often alert the brain to switch off the fight-or-flight response so the body can return to a more relaxed state. A chiropractor can also recommend nutritional supplementation, rehabilitative exercises, deep-tissue massage, relaxation techniques and postural changes to help patients manage stress.
While it’s impossible to completely eliminate stress, regular chiropractic care can help negate some of its effects and prevent long-term damage to the body.