Hey Folks! We’re back with Part Deux of the “How Chiropractic will change your life” Saga. The last post ended with quite the cliffhanger – What are the far reaching effects of stress and how is Chiro involved with it?
You may remember in a previous post I mentioned that movement and pain are competitive inhibitors, meaning one cancels the other out. The slightly more complicated version of this idea is that painful things (repetitive motions/poor posture) are always sent to the brain, but only some are ultimately perceived as pain (like face-planting off a BMX). What DOES happen before the realization of pain is the stress response, which you may know as the fight/flight response. So while sitting in a chair writing a blog post will fire up some nociception (pain) from my spine, the “pain” isn’t a conscious event. Without chiropractic adjustments, subluxations continue to reduce the movement signal being sent to the brain and increase the painful/stress signal being sent. This wouldn’t be a problem, except that all these stressors and the chronic stress response they set up in your body is a cumulative thing. So eventually you end up feeling pain from trivial stimuli that normally wouldn’t be perceived as painful (some researchers/scientists believe this may be involved in the development of fibromyalgia).
The stress response affects the nervous input to your brain and the effect is the brain then doesn’t know how to optimally respond to its’ environment. This results in changes in your bodies many balancing acts (blood pressure/cardiac output, hormone production, everything, etc.), emotions (ever feel more relaxed or more energized after an adjustment?), visceral function (better breathing, digestion, etc.) as well as the more obvious changes in movement, muscle tone and posture (notice good posture is less work after an adjustment?).
You may have heard the stress response being explained with this analogy:
You’re out in the wild, and you’ve been there 100 times before and you’re going down to the stream to get some water, you check out your surroundings and everything is great. You dip your hands into the water but hear something and quickly turn around and there is a tiger about 15 feet away from you in full sprint/attack mode. You don’t take the time to consider whether or not it’s actually planning on running past you because it’s just REALLY thirsty. Your body reacts and you either try to fight it (and get mauled to death) or you run for your life (and probably, you get mauled to death – tigers are fast). But what happens inside of you during all of this? The stress response.
If you’re like me in 2nd year Biology, that’s just about all you remember about it. So now let’s talk about what actually happens during the stress response. Every process that will increase the available energy to your muscles (catabolic processes) happens (blood flow to your organs slows [vasoconstriction], blood flow to your muscles increases [vasodilation], heart rate increases) and everything your body does that you don’t necessarily NEED at this very moment (anabolic processes) is decreased (Sex glands, sex drive, digestion, growth/repair, immunity). This is intelligent as we probably aren’t worried about our sex performance when being mauled to death is imminent. The other thing that happens is that our awareness is increased (so we can see where to run away to, any possible weapons nearby, etc.) at the expense of concentration (sounds like ADHD, doesn’t it? – maybe these kids are stressed out!). We don’t need to learn the stress response while fleeing, so we don’t.
So, as you can imagine, people who are chronically stressed (be it from subluxation, poor diet or mental stress) may be the same people suffering from: High blood pressure, decreased fertility, decreased libido, IBS, indigestion, colds/flu/chronic bronchitis, poor recovery from sickness OR workouts, poor concentration. Your body creates the stress response so that you can change your environment. As modern humans our problem is that many of us expose ourselves to this environment EVERYDAY.
Now then, you now have a pretty good idea (probably better than many healthcare professionals) about why the stress response is bad. You’ve got a good idea about its’ far reaching effects (no sex drive? No thank you!) and later this week, you’ll get a good idea about how to reduce it/resolve these problems (although you’ve probably got a good idea what I’m going to hint at!)
Dr. Adam Ball