by Vonda Romero, DC
The holidays are right around the corner, and so too is the dreaded holiday stress. This not-so-jolly aspect of the season can be detrimental to health. Stress can lead to headaches, depression, anxiety, heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders, among other conditions. When one feels threatened, the nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which prepare the body to react in emergency situations. The heartbeat increases, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises and the senses become sharper.
These physical changes are supposed to increase strength and stamina, speed a person’s reaction time and enhance focus. This is known as the “fight-or-flight” response—the body’s way of protecting itself. Stress can be a good thing; it can actually save a person’s life in an emergency situation. For example, it can give someone the extra strength needed to defend him/herself or another person against harm, or trigger a quick reaction to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident. Stress can also help motivate people to meet challenges and deadlines.
However, stress begins to be an issue when it becomes chronic. Our sympathetic nervous system often has a hard time distinguishing between daily stressors and life-threatening events. Stress over an argument with a spouse, a deadline at work or a mountain of bills can cause the body to trigger the same reactions it would as if these were life-or-death situations. Unfortunately, stress has become a part of our everyday lives. Almost everyone has stress to deal with, but some just don’t know how.
Chiropractic care can help manage stress. 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. Muscle tension and contraction caused by prolonged stress can lead to uneven pressure being applied to the vertebrae, resulting in misalignment. Correcting this misalignment with adjustments can not only relieve back and muscle pain but can also improve the functioning of the immune and nervous systems, reduce nerve irritation, and improve blood circulation. Spinal adjustments release muscle tension and help the body 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 and nervous system is one key to effectively manage stress. Chiropractors are trained in nutritional and soft-tissue techniques for stress management. Several nutritional supplements, including B vitamins and magnesium, help the body cope with stress. A doctor of chiropractic may also recommend relaxation techniques and discuss posture and environmental changes to help aid in recovery from chronic stress.
Dr. Vonda Romero is a chiropractic doctor with OKC Wellness Clinics. The centers offer a variety of techniques and modalities to help achieve wellness goals, including chiropractic alignments, myofascial release, ultrasound therapy, massage, electrical muscle stimulation, rehab/functional training/therapeutic exercise and nutritional counseling. For more information, call 405-842-3413 or visit OKCWellness.com.