Chiropractic Care: the Solution to the Damaging Effects of Stress on your Body and Health
People today are stressed. We live in world where we are continually exposed to a barrage of media - from 24/7 new channels to social media to the World Wide Web – and this constant “noise” makes for a fast-paced, overstimulated environment. All this clamor can add to the stress we already encounter in our daily lives as we go about fulfilling our work duties, paying our bills, raising our children, running our errands, and attending to the general business of life. The amount of stress we feel, and how we cope with it, greatly impacts our physical well-being.
Our bodies respond to stress in physiological ways. Perhaps you've heard of the “fight-or-flight” reflex, the body’s instinctive reaction to a perceived threat or dangerous situation. The brain signals the nervous system to pump out hormones that prepare the body to run faster away from the danger or to fight harder against the threat. This biological response was designed by nature to last only a short period of time – that is, to provide us a burst of adrenaline enabling us to get to safety - and then turn off.
The problem with the continually stressful environment we experience in our world today is that the sources of stress are ongoing and never-ending, causing our bodies to maintain a constant state of fight-or-flight agitation. And our bodies aren't designed to handle that.
Most forces in nature come in pairs that oppose each other: hot and cold, acidic and basic, light and dark. Normally these forces push against each other in a way that creates balance. Likewise, our bodies have two nervous systems that oppose and balance each other: the sympathetic nervous system (which controls the fight-or-flight response) and the parasympathetic nervous system (the “rest and rejuvenate” response). Our brain keeps our bodies in balance by controlling these two systems. The body ideally functions at a ratio of 80% parasympathetic nervous system response to 20% sympathetic nervous system response. However, as the result of constant stress, our bodies are often forced to function at the opposite ratio: 80% sympathetic to 20% parasympathetic. This takes a toll on our health!
When the body is in a sympathetic (fight-or-flight) state, it affects us both physically and mentally. The blood supply to the organs is pulled away and sent to the muscles to prepare for running or fighting. When this happens, the organs are unable to function properly because they aren’t receiving adequate blood supply - the stomach can’t digest food, the intestines can’t absorb nutrients, the liver can’t detoxify our metabolic byproducts, and so on. The sympathetic stress response also shuts down blood supply to the frontal cortex of our brain, the part of the brain responsible for our “human” emotions such as compassion, empathy, and love. The blood supply is instead diverted to the parietal lobe (also known as the “reptilian brain”). This is the primitive portion of the brain that is only able to distinguish things as either predator or prey.
In addition to causing physical problems such as indigestion and weight gain, and hindering our ability to think straight, the sympathetic stress response also actually causes our spines to distort. Years of prolonged stress result in spinal distortions, and even after the source of stress is removed, the spinal distortions remain until corrected by chiropractic care.
The best way to explain spinal distortions is to take the example of a cat. Cats are the animal embodiment of Jell-O, if you will: relaxed and supple. Yet a startled cat will spit and hiss, arching its back with every muscle primed for attack – the sympathetic response. Eventually the cat will relax, her back returning to normal posture. We humans, on the other hand, when under prolonged stress, retain that stress in our spines, and over time this results in the loss of postural curvatures, or the formation of spinal subluxations that produce symptoms. So, even after the cause of stress is removed, these spinal distortions remain, causing the nervous system to remain in the sympathetic state, wherein blood supply to the organs and frontal lobe is compromised, and our physical and emotional/social health suffers.
Chiropractic care is the solution to these spinal distortions and resulting problems. It doesn't matter when a chiropractic adjustment comes into this process. In the beginning, chiropractic care can help one deal with stress and avoid its effects; and once stress has manifested itself in the form of spinal distortions, chiropractic care can alleviate the problems that they cause. Even in a case where a spine is locked in the chronic stress position, a course of treatment with chiropractic adjustments can restore that spine to a more resilient, more parasympathetic-dominant, health-producing condition! If you’re feeling the wear-and-tear in your body from the stress in your daily life, call the team at Reinecke Chiropractic. We’re here to restore your spine to optimal function, and your health to maximum well-being.