The Stress Effect

Ever noticed how pain has a habit of shifting? From the neck to the lower back, the left to the right, apparently always on the move. Other times it can completely change from physical pain to stomach upsets, constant irritation, heart palpitations, brain fog and constant rumination’s unable to switch off and sleep. These “dysfunctions” might not be the same as physical pain, yet they often stem from the same root cause.  

Before we know the cause, we have to agree on what the problem is. The problem, whether it is pain, disease or illness, there must be a state of dysfunction within our bodies. The body is not working as intended. There is a state of disorder, of confusion, of improper function within the body and more often than not, this is a response to STRESS. This is called the Stress Effect.

Chances are you too believe stress has something to do with it. The World Health Organisation has defined stress as the “21st century epidemic” and is apparently responsible for up to 90% of all diseases and illnesses. Right now “stress” is both very real, yet also a buzz word surrounding health care. Hopefully today we will be able to highlight just how far reaching the umbrella of stress can be. We hope to show just how much of our lives it can keep in the shadows. 

Stress is often divided into 3 major branches: Physical, Emotional and Chemical.  

When looking at these 3 branches, it’s important to understand that they can be acute and really drastic in appearance. Likewise, they can be much more subtle, a slow burning fuse just waiting to ignite.

If looking at Physical Stress consider the slow burning fuse of sitting on a wallet. Over a long enough time period this will create a twist, a torsion through the spine & body and could eventually lead to breakdown. Whereas the acute, traumatic nature of a car accident causing instant whiplash highlights the potentially sudden nature of stress.

Long term Chemical Stress may be something like a wheat or gluten intolerance. For many people this doesn’t “cause any effects” until the mid to late 20’s. Or there’s the sudden onset of chemical stress induced after a big night on the booze, aka the hangover.

As for Emotional Stress, breakups, bullying, negative friendships, chasing ‘likes’ on social media, dealing with family over Christmas and comparing to others. These are just some ways we can end up stressed. 

Can’t we just Stress test ourselves?

According to Wiki, “Stress testing (sometimes called torture testing) is a form of deliberately intense or thorough testing used to determine the stability of a given system or entity. It involves testing beyond normal operational capacity, often to a breaking point, in order to observe the results.” As humans, our connected, living, breathing, bodies and minds are not hardware. We each have our own unique ability to store and absorb stress. Additionally we have unique locations for storing stress. While one person’s emotional stress may go right to their brain, another’s may be experienced as back pain. The only common thread is that stress leads to a breakdown in ideal body behaviour, dysfunction, pain or illness- the stress effect. 

If we were mechanical, a car or computer for example, we could potentially run ourselves through a Stress Test. However, we are more complex and diverse. Our instruction manual is perpetually being rewritten, as humans we evolve and are never at a fixed state. That we continually grow, change, adapt and transition means we respond to stress today very differently from the way we responded to stress 5 or 10 years ago. 

Another unique characteristic about being human and another great reason why we can’t “stress test” is because we are always under the influence of these different physical, emotional and chemical stressors each day. Even with an advanced degree in chemistry, physics, neurology and psychology it would be impossible to know just how each of these different styles of stress interact with each other. 

Stress Effect: The Chicken or the Egg

To say stress is the root of all evil seems too simplistic. Did “stress” cause the body to breakdown? Or is back pain, headaches, sciatica, digestive issues and heart palpitations the cause of stress? At Transitions Chiropractic, every day we see that stress is its own self feeding loop.

Chances are that some sort of stress did come first and more than likely this stress effect was probably silent. A slow burn of chemical, emotional or physical stress that over time started to heat up. Eventually, after the burn had been going on long enough, the fire erupted and suddenly we were very aware of a problem. The back pain and headaches “out of nowhere,” the days on end of stomach upsets and heart palpitations “have just happened.”

Now that the symptom is present, the body has to launch itself into defence or survival mode. The internal fire alarms start ringing and the body’s internal fire fighters rush to the scene, to put out the blaze as quick as possible. With all these firefighters on deck, this will absolutely add to the internal stress response. Now there is literally more fuel to the fire furthering to drive the stress levels and internal stress effect response higher and higher.

Before exhausting our energy supplies in deciphering what external source of stress was, we have to deal with the problem. We have to reduce the stress response internally and put out the local fire first. We have to stop the internal fire from further fuelling the blaze. Continuing along this fire analogy changing climate policies, bush regeneration practices and other long term solutions have their place only after the fires out and lives have been saved. 

So which came first? It probably is stress. Yet how can you remove it?

Now that the pain, headaches, back pain, neck pain, sleeping disturbance, heart palpitations or other body dysfunction is here, we have to deal with it. We have to put out the internal fire at hand. Once the pain and headaches have stopped, that self-feeding stress cycle stops. The cyclic nature of irritation is reduced. Now’s the time to look at your body and improve its adaptability. Improve its ability to handle and deal with the stressors and the environment you are in. Because if we can’t change ourselves, wouldn’t it be even harder to change our environment and remove all the stress around us entirely? 

The 7-9 hours of sleep every night, the perfect diet, the best relationships, no long term poor postures, great movement and no family, financial or professional worries. It’s a beautiful pipe-dream. The stress effect will happen, stress is there. How do you manage it? Chiropractic and massage are just some ways that absolutely help. We work with you to put the fires out when the pain and tension are at their worst. Yet what we really do best is provide an avenue to shape, mould and shift your internal set up. Change old patterns, learn new habits and physically improve your set up to handle and deal with stress better. 

It’s not the load that breaks you downit’s the way you carry it.” —Lena Horne