This week I have had a lot of stress myself and have seen many patients whose problems are either exacerbated by stress or caused by it. When I was younger, I never realized when I was stressed and something would go wrong with my body physically. I would be puzzled why, but never connected it to what else was happening in my life. This week my stress gave me a very stiff and painful neck, which thankfully, my partner has treated and I am already 60% better today.
I had studied psychology before going to Chiropractic college and so had a good idea about the effects of stress, even before studying for my degree in Chiropractic. We all saw the effects of stress on our own bodies during examination periods. The college clinic, where we did our internship year after 4 years of studies, was always full of students around exam time. Then later as interns we expected to be treating each other and our younger students intensively at certain times of the year.
Now, having treated patients for 15 years, I have a clear picture of what stress can do to our bodies. Daily, my patients display a variety of stress related symptoms and I thought it would be good to give some examples here.
Some of the most stressful things in life are the death of a spouse or loved one, severe or prolonged illness of oneself or a loved one, divorce or separation, moving home or country, and strangely reconciliation. It is not only these things and the great disasters, which cause stress either. Work related stress, which continues daily and can be related to striving for targets or just to do well and keep your job, can be very damaging to your health. A poorly functioning relationship, a child with physical or mental problems, even mild can add to the daily stress as well. Simple unhappiness with your life over a long period will also take its toll on your physical health.
On a simple level, the spinal joints and the surrounding muscles tend to be strongly affected by stress. There are often some minor joint problems in the spine, which do not bother you until a moment of great or continuous stress. Then the brain seems to multiply those minor problems until huge amounts of pain are surrounding the spine either in the shoulders, the mid back or the low back. Often the upper neck muscles and joints are affected and this may result in strong headaches, which often can be described as 10/10 on the pain scale.
Since many people do not know how chiropractors can help to eliminate spinal and muscular problems, they take over the counter medicines in the hope of relief. At first it may help, but in the long run, you are just masking the symptoms and not dealing with the primary causes of the pain. Putting the spinal problems right, together with the understanding we give you of your body and how it responds to mental and physical stress, is the best way to improve and maintain your health on a long-term basis.
I have had one mother with two children, each with small health problems and a husband who has had a minor illness this week. She has low back pain and tension in her shoulders and neck. After 3 treatments, she feels 90% better and is able to cope with life much better. Another young man who recently changed his job after being unfairly dismissed, has been hoping to marry his girlfriend. He has had two months of constant headache. Treating his stiff and tender neck and upper back, together with some suggestions about moving on, gave him new hope of a pain free life. After four treatments he now knows how to minimize his headaches and has some coping techniques to lower his stress.
I hope you also read the story about my patient who had 6 years of headache and now has only one mild headache about every two weeks. However, I am not saying that every pain and ache is due to stress. Of course there is injury from accidents, postural and repetitive strain and wear and tear from work and exercise to consider as well. All of there situations come to us daily and we help the patients to get better. What I am saying is that especially, if the patient does not find help early in the pain stage, the whole problem will be made worse by the simple stress of feeling pain and not knowing how to get rid of it.
If you know someone who is suffering with pain, do not underestimate the damage it can do to them. It spoils your mood, ruins your concentration and can do untold damage to your digestive system, your hormonal system and cardiovascular system to name but a few. Pain is just a symptom. Not a nice one, but it is telling you something is wrong. Covering it up and suffering a long time will harm you. Get some help and if it is joint or muscular pain, come and take a check up with us. We can help.