At this time we may all be exposed to increased levels of stress. The credit crunch, instability at work, financial worries, family and relationship problems are all good examples of what causes stress in our society. As Christmas approaches the pressure to earn the pennies increases, shift patterns change; working hours are longer and stress increases. With all the best intention in the world, good healthy habits can go out of the window, making it difficult to achieve the Work-Rest Balance.
STRESS CAN BE DEFINED AS ANY DISTURBANCE TO THE BODY
Stress and how it affects the body
The bodies’ initial response to any stressful event, such as a meeting or presentation, is the ‘fight or flight’ mode, brought on by the release of Adrenalin. This causes a state of heightened alertness lasting for an hour or two. If repeated stressful events occur without much rest or sleep in between, the body then produces the primary stress hormone Cortisol.
Cortisol has a positive effect on short term stress enabling us to become focussed, motivated and more effective, however over a longer period it can cause problems with our general health. Cortisol can raise our blood pressure and blood sugar levels, increase thyroid function and suppress digestive function; increasing the risk of diabetes and stomach ulcers. It also reduces the bodies’ ability to heal by suppressing the inflammatory response and the immune system making it difficult for the body to tackle even the common cold.
Long term Cortisol release also causes muscle wasting and when associated with poor posture and nutrition can lead to aches and pains.
Stress & Breathing
The mechanism of breathing depends largely on the Diaphragm (right), one of the primary muscles of breathing. There are accessory muscles of breathing, which are smaller and attach to the upper and lower ribs, such as the Scalenii in the neck. These are used when there is an increased demand for oxygen during exercise or stress.
Problems occur during long term stress as we stop using our Diaphragm efficiently and over-use the accessory muscles in the neck and chest. This causes them to become tight, tired and a source of pain. Shallow breathing is also a common symptom of poor Diaphragm function. If this pattern continues over a long period then the tightness can affect posture in the head and neck with the head becoming drawn forwards putting strain on the neck and shoulder muscles. Ultimately this can result in recurrent tension headaches and often reliance on analgesic drugs to mask the pain. T
he Diaphragm also aids digestion by moving up and down, massaging the abdominal organs, encouraging the passage of food. Poor Diaphragm function can cause a loss of these beneficial effects on digestion, increasing chances of constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The Diaphragm also acts as a pump in the chest cavity to draw blood and lymphatic fluid up from the legs and lower organs.
Arrange an appointment at Bedworth Active Health Clinic to experience how one of our highly skilled Osteopaths, Massage Therapists or Acupuncturists can gently but effectively alleviate your stress, tension and pain. Or come and try our personal trainer or Pilates class to exercise the stresses away.
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Whether you have chronic niggles, aches or muscle and joint pain due to work-related strain, sports injuries, or postural problems; you are suffering acute problems due to an accident, whiplash, pregnancy, a slipped disc or trapped nerve; or you suffer with other symptoms such as headaches or general stiffness, the team at The Bedworth Active Health Centre for osteopathy and sports injuries can help.