Let’s be honest, we all feel stressed from time to time, especially around this time of year. But whereas short-term stress can actually be beneficial to us, chronic stress can have detrimental effects on our bodies. Not only does stress cause us to feel more emotional, frustrated and overwhelmed, it can cause physical pain as well. Some of the more common physical symptoms of stress include headaches and upset stomachs (I’m sure we’ve all been there), but sore muscles, aching bodies, and back and neck pain are also relatively common.
On the other hand, it is also possible for physical disorders to cause emotional stress. While stress is sometimes a direct response to the cause of the injury, such as in the case of domestic abuse, it can also be secondary to acquired brain damage, or simply arise in response to being injured or sick. For example, imagine that you are experiencing lower back pain, you don’t know what is causing the pain, it is not going away, and it is getting in the way of your everyday life. You have to take time off from work, you can’t play with the kids, and even the simplest task becomes problematic. Would that not make you feel a little stressed? And then also take into account that stress can cause or worsen back pain, and all of a sudden you have a vicious cycle of stress and pain and more stress and more pain.
How do you know if stress is the result of a physical disorder?
To determine whether a physical ailment is the cause of stress, or if it is the other way around (which is not always easy to do), try asking yourself the following questions:
- Are you experiencing any other symptoms of stress, such as insomnia, lack of energy, high blood pressure, or depression?
- Are you suffering from headaches, back pain or other physical disorders/diseases, and if so, did this start before or after you started experiencing other symptoms of stress?
- Have you recently been in an accident, been assaulted, or in any other way seriously injured or sick?
- Is there any obvious reason, other than physical pain, as to why you should feel stressed? Demanding project at work? Financial issues? Family problems?
But no matter if you’re stressed because you’re in pain, or you’re in pain because you’re stressed, the bottom line is: you need to do something about it!
So what’s next?
Well, your first step should always be to go see a doctor, but if they can’t help you (or only offer you drugs to hide the pain), there are a number of alternative strategies worth looking into. Pain management itself is usually pretty straightforward; drugs, exercise, and physical therapy have all been shown to help, but these do not address the associated emotional stress. Another alternative, which more and more people choose, is to see a chiropractor.
How chiropractors can help relieve your stress
Chiropractic care has been hailed as a safe, cost-effective and highly efficient way to treat back pain, and so much so that the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society now recommend spinal manipulation as the first-line treatment for chronic or sub-acute lower back pain, when self-care is not enough. It has also been demonstrated to be effective for treating tension headaches, which are often associated with stress.
Chiropractic care focuses on the muscular-, skeletal-, and nervous systems, and chiropractors primarily work by performing so-called “adjustments” or “manipulations” on the spinal cord, with the intention to restore mobility and ease pain. Chiropractors believe that emotional stress, as well as physical trauma and certain diseases, can cause interference of the nervous system and lead to altered or impaired nerve function. By manipulating the affected area, the interference can be corrected, thereby reversing the symptoms of what caused it in the first place.
In addition to the initial adjustment, many chiropractors will work with you to determine what triggered the stress or pain to begin with, helping you avoid it in the future. They will also help establish a personalized treatment plan to make you become free from pain and stress permanently. The plan usually includes regular or semi-regular chiropractic manipulations, and may be supplemented by massage therapy, specific exercise routines, diet changes, or ergonomic modifications.
While it is not always straightforward to determine what causes stress, back pain, or headaches, there is a good chance that a chiropractor can help alleviate all of them. So do yourself a favour this holiday season: take a break from the Christmas shopping/cooking/family drama/whatever else gets you worked up; take a nice long bath or go for a walk, and if that’s not enough to make you de-stress; consider asking Santa for a chiropractor appointment.
About the author:
Neil Hanks is a freelance medical writer for chiropractor Kitchener, Activa Clinics