Well, it’s March and springtime is looming. With this comes a few changes to both your internal and external environment.
Business will pick up, which will place more stress and a greater demand on you. You will have the tendency to disregard those aches and pains and “work” through them. The body is often faced with other challenges at this time, as many people tend to overwork their immune systems.
Stress from work or chemical stress from pain can cause your immune system to operate at lower levels than normal. Conversely, your musculoskeletal system may function above normal and this may manifest as tight and sore muscles, headaches or backaches. There is also the burden of seasonal changes, especially in Western Canada, where it can be shorts and t-shirt weather one day and parkas the next.
We must also mention other factors such as environmental pollutants, such as the air we breathe and the water we drink. All of these factors act to diminish our body’s ability to adapt, which can lead to more health problems in the future. This brings me to the main point of this month’s article, which is how to stay healthy during times of stress (every day)!
Stress is actually good for your body, in small amounts. When we are under small amounts of stress, most of us work more efficiently and effectively. Under these small amounts of stress, most of our bodies can react and compensate effectively until the situation is resolved. Well, that is my glimpse of utopia. Most of us do not deal with those optimal levels of stress on a day-to-day basis. The reality is that most of us are exposed to high levels of stress constantly. The body deals with these varied levels of stress quite well, as long as all systems are working optimally. As everybody knows or has experienced first-hand, there is a breaking point. The effects of stress tend to be cumulative, whether it’s physical, chemical or psychological. Let’s look at the mechanisms behind each type of stress and some solutions for dealing with them.
Psychological stress is the most difficult to quantify, but easy to qualify, as long as the person can answer a yes or no question, about how they feel. Do you feel stressed? Yes? Or no? Often we do not know that we are experiencing the effects of psychological stress. Have you ever avoided a collision, and later that day you went to do something minor, but physical, and you experience the onset of a stiff neck, or your low-back seizes? These are physical manifestations of psychological stress in your body.
Coping with psychological stress can be very tricky (that is why there are numerous fields that deal with it – honestly, ask my shrink!) The physical manifestations of this type of stress can be dealt with quite efficiently by a number or health care specialists. Chiropractors, massage therapists, acupuncture to name a few, and of course, Dr. You! Perhaps it is lifting weights every day, while you’re on the road, or running a few miles before you start your day. Any moderate physical activity can help your body maintain its equilibrium in times of stress. When the stress does get to be too much, your system will rebel, and at this point you need to see a health care provider to get you back on track. Remember, the effects of stress are cumulative, and as I have said before, just because the pain goes away does not mean that the problem is gone.
Chemical and physical stress are different in nature, and both can manifest with physical symptoms. The obvious chemical stressors are toxins in the environment, food, etc.
Cigarettes and tobacco products are two in particular that can manifest with physical symptoms. Nicotine acts as a vasoconstrictor (narrows blood vessels), which over time can lead to a number of chronic conditions and diseases. This can also lead to sore, achy muscles and joints (I always find it amusing when people tell me that they are stressed, so they are going out to have a cigarette).
Physical stress is just what it sounds like. You work hard, lifting, pushing, pulling, etc. and the physical stress manifests as physical symptoms in your muscles and joints. These two types have similar manifestations to psychological stress. All have physical symptoms, so all have a component that can be remedied with some of the health care options mentioned above.
The other obvious way to reduce these types of stress is to cut them out (chemical) or change the way we perform certain tasks (physical).
We all have the ability to limit our exposure to physical and chemical stressors, but we must first realize what they are.
The ability of the aforementioned health care practitioners to help with some of the physical manifestations of stress is very important.
So is the willingness of the individual to recognize the signs of stress and for them to want to address the problem. So, there is potential to limit the damage and recover from some of the effects of stress.
This month’s article covers an enormous topic in very few words. My hope is that you will become interested in some of these topics and research them further for yourself. I try to incorporate things that I see every day in practice, things that can help improve the health of readers, should you want to pursue it.
Live Healthier. Feel Healthier. Function Better!
– Dr. Marc Blackstone is a chiropractor at City Health Chiropractic & Massage located in the RoadKing Truck Stop in Calgary, Alberta. Any questions or comments may be directed to him through his e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or via telephone at 403-204-1205 or Toll-Free at 1-866-466-0026. You may also view this article and others on the clinic website: www.blackstoneclinic.com The clinic is also a WCB authorized provider.