Chiropractic and Acupuncture for Stress Management and Reduction
Written By Dr. Barbara Rodwin, Doctor of Chiropractic, ART, CATS
Patients bring many different health conditions, either physical or emotional, into their appointments. It is important to remember that regardless of the origin of a disorder, its effects on the human body will manifest in the nervous system. The nervous system is the organizer and coordinator of all bodily processes. This includes the circulatory, respiratory, digestive, reproductive, endocrine (hormonal), and musculo-skeletal systems. Therefore, the most direct method of presenting and correcting conditions is directed toward balancing the nervous system. This is precisely the pathway that chiropractic and stress management care utilize. Chiropractors work primarily with the spine, the root of the nervous system through which nerve impulses travel from the brain to the rest of the body. One effect of chronic stress is prolonged muscle tension and contraction. This muscle tension creates uneven pressures on the bony structures of the body, often leading to the misalignment of the spinal column, known as vertebral joint restrictions or subluxations. Chronic stress also leads to nerve irritation. The chiropractic adjustments restore motion to both spinal and all other joints of the body, releases muscle tension, reduces spinal nerve irritation, improves blood circulation and this aids the body to return to a more balanced, relaxed state. These changes may be enough, in many cases, to convince the brain to turn off the fight or flight response, beginning the process of healing. A healthy and balanced spine is one key to effectively managing stress. A chiropractor cannot make a job less stressful, or create a quieter, calmer world! What chiropractic treatment can do is help you develop healthy responses to stress, reducing potential physical damage. Chiropractic is based on the concept that given the opportunity, the mind and body can heal itself. In relieving some of the effects of chronic stress, chiropractic care provides just such an opportunity.
Acupuncture is another incredibly effective tool to reduce stress. It is well documented that acupuncture can stimulate the release of endorphins; hormones that are responsible for relieving pain. It also has been clinically proven to lower stress-related cortisol levels. The theory behind this is that it modifies the autonomic nervous system to lower the release of cortisol levels during prolonged stress. The general sense of well-being may also be attributed to increased levels of mood altering neuropeptides including melatonin, serotonin, and dopamine. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, we do two things: Calm the mind and treat the underlying organ system that may be affected. This results in both an immediate feeling of relaxation or calm as well as increasing the patient’s resilience to future episodes.
The Effects of Stress and How Massage Can Help
Have you been feeling run down and more tired lately? Do your muscles ache and feel really tight and sore? Have you been having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep? Then you may be suffering from the effects of stress!
Stress has many various causes and is specific to each individual person. It might be getting that deadline finished on time, or perhaps the unfortunate passing of a loved one, but no matter the cause the effects can have a major impact on your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
Stress can be useful in times of need or depending on the situation, but over the long term stress and anxiety can lower your digestive function, raise your blood pressure, change the balance of your hormones, and lower your immune system. These changes can make you more susceptible to illness, injury, and health problems further down the line. One of the many ways of relieving stress is through massage. Massage helps to ease your nervous system and helps your body’s natural ability to heal and rest. Whether you’re looking for a relaxation massage to ease your tired mind and muscles or a lymphatic massage to help boost your immune system in those times of stress, massage therapists are trained to help you tackle stress.
It’s important to find your own ways of releasing stress so that we can enjoy the life we have. Go for a walk, spend time with loved ones, or get a massage – anything to help break that cycle of stress and live a healthier, happier life.
Adrenal Function: The Key to Long-Term Stress Resilience!
The impact of stress on the mind and body are many-fold. Stress is often a major underlying causative factor for numerous chronic health conditions, and supporting your body’s ability to adapt to stress may be the key to regaining the health you want.
Your “Adrenals” are two walnut-sized glands perched on top of your kidneys that are frequently overlooked and undervalued. As their name would imply, they release “adrenaline” during acute stress which activates the “fight-or-flight” response. This allows you to act quickly during a work crisis, run a 10 km race or chase down a bus, helping you meet whatever demands are in front of you.
Cortisol is another important adrenal hormone which is released gradually in response to chronic stressors – work demands, family or relationship issues, overscheduling, overtraining, and environmental hazards to name just a few examples. Adrenal issues often happen when cortisol levels are either too high or too low and can lead to an impaired stress response. High cortisol levels are often linked with anxiety, insomnia, hypertension and weight gain.
Essentially the body keeps producing stress hormones without ever shutting off properly. Long-term this can lead to adrenal “burnout” where the body is no longer able to produce adequate cortisol. Low cortisol levels are linked with chronic fatigue, depression, impaired concentration, allergies, frequent infections and an inability to manage inflammation in the body.
Luckily, there are ways to support your adrenals and increase your body’s stress threshold! This can include sleep and stress management, integrating routines to normalize hormonal fluxes, and the addition of vitamins and herbs to support and regain normal adrenal function.
Naturopathic Doctors are extensively trained to diagnose and treat adrenal issues, so if you’re noticing any of the above symptoms talk to your Naturopath and get back on the path to wellness!