If you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed you're not alone. Today modern stress is effecting so many of us that the World Health Organization has declared stress ‘the health epidemic of the twenty-first century’. Common problems such as anxiety, panic attacks, poor memory, inability to concentrate, low libido, and many gut problems have stress as a root cause.
Stress can contribute to long term problems such as the development of obesity, burn-out, type 2 diabetes, insomnia, auto-immune disease, depression, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, strokes and even Alzheimer’s disease. Although stress starts in the brain there are directly links to insulin resistance, gut health and inflammatory pathways in the body. Fortunately there are many simple things you can implement into your daily routine to help keep stress at bay.
At Auckland Physiotherapy we use our collective method to ensure all our clients injuries are assessed with a view of treating the whole person. So if you come to see us with chronic low back pain and are feeling stressed or overwhelmed we may need to address these factors to allow you to make a full recovery. Research has shown powerful links between the body and the mindset, with depression (not severity of injury) being the single strongest indicator that back pain will become persistent. Under the right circumstances our bodies are extremely intelligent and have abundant mechanisms to allow you to heal naturally. Unfortunately, modern day stressors often hinder the bodies ability to heal itself as these mechanisms are often shut down or slowed in a stressful environment. So to create an environment in which your body can begin to heal itself we need to work on both the body and the mind. In terms of the physical injury and symptoms you may need a period of basic exercises to reduce pain and rest the injured area so it can begin to recover. At the same time if your mind is constantly on guard with the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system activated you body will not be able to rest and repair as the resources are being used to heighten your alertness and get you ready incase you need to escape from danger. However, this cycle can be broken by activating your parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system, using the power of breath and meditation. With practice you can gain control over your autonomic nervous system and tap into the healing power of the parasympathetic nervous system. Not only can this help you to feel less anxious, but can also reduce stress, lower pain level and create the platform for healing to begin. Studies have shown that chronic stress can impact all of your bodies systems including hormone production and inflammation. Under stressful situations an inflammatory marker CRP (c-reactive protien) has been shown to rise, but the good news is that is can be lowered with activation of your parasympathetic nervous system. Practices such as mindfulness, meditation and yoga have been proven to give you more control over these autonomic nervous systems and one study even found that people who practiced yoga could respond more quickly when an endotoxin (a common cold) was released into their body, their immune system was able to react more quickly and kill to toxin.
In terms of hormone balance, we know that the body converts LDL (cholestrol) into cortisol and also into sex hormones (testosterone, estrogen and progestrone), so if you are constantly feeling stressed this means that your cortisol requirements are higher than normal and there will not be enough LDL left for conversion to your sex hormones. This alteration in hormone balance can then disrupt other systems in the body causing this like low sex drive, altered periods in women, changes in mood, sleep disruption, weight changes and much more. Another concern for women is that estrogen is required for maintaining strong bones, so low estrogen can lead to osteporosis if it is not addressed. Hence, when assessing someone with ongoing pain it is important to look at both the physical body and the mind. In some cases supplements may be recommended, there is now good research to support the use of supplements such as Omega 3 with good levels of EPA and DHA to help with both joint pain and also anxiety, as we have discussed the LDL demands are higher in stressful situations so it is important to provide the body with suffient amounts of good fats.
At Auckland Physiotherapy our Health Collective offer a range of services to help our clients to manage stress and overwhelm, some great options include Yoga, mindfulness, Pilates, massage and exercise.
If you would like to learn more about how to manage stress naturally, we have loads of helpful blogs with some of our top picks here:
For advice on supplements please speak to a practitioner.
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