So I have this conversation on a regular basis and it goes something like this….
Patient: I just don’t know why the pain suddenly started, I didn’t do anything
Upset Mid adult man in his thirties posing looking down
Me: Well is anything else happening in your life currently that may be a challenge?
Patient: No, I’ve not changed my routine, I’m still running twice a week and doing yoga – nothing different
Me: What about work? Anything new happening there, any challenges with your boss?
Patient: well actually, I’m on a new project and it’s not going so well….
It could be something as simple as worrying about work, but there are countless emotional and mental triggers that can change your physiology and these can also be a trigger for back pain or other injuries and health challenges.
Let me explain:
Firstly I want you to focus on how you feel when you are worrying about something or you have something on your mind. Notice what happens to your breath. Does it slow down? Is it shallow? Do you feel constricted? Then notice how you hold your body when you focus on this stressor? Anything change? What happens to your energy? Do you feel energized or drained? What about your mood? Does focusing on this make you feel full of life or lacking get up and go?
What happens in your body when you are worrying or stressed about something is fairly predictable though we will all do it in our own unique way with a different emphasis depending on our life experience and conditioning.
A worry or a stress can trigger a fight/flight response in your body because that’s how we are wired. And fight-flight can look like this:
tense, tight muscles – ready to run or fight
negative thoughts – because you are in danger
raised blood pressure – so you can run
raised blood sugar – energy source
increased stress hormones
reduced gut function – because it is not important when you are threatened
reduced immune function – because this is about long term survival not short term threat
reduced sexual function – again not important if you are in short term danger
If we just explore the tight, tense muscles a bit further. If your tense and tight it will take far less for you to overextend a joint and cause a sprain to the local ligaments. If your spine is under tension because all the spinal muscles have contracted keeping you tense, the discs will be under tension and more vulnerable to injury. If your muscles are already tight and tense and contracted, they are more vulnerable to injury than when you have warmed them up and they are ready to go.
So many of the clients we work with have got injured or sick during periods of emotional or mental stress. Even with some of our existing clients, life can sometimes become overwhelming because they are not able to dissipate all of the tensions building up in their body in response to what is going on for them, so they may re-injure or get sick for a short period of time. The only major difference I see in clients who have worked with us for a while and those who are new, is that the existing ones bounce back so much faster. Both groups recover physically, it’s just healing times are different.
So how is stress affecting you? If you are familiar with Somato-Respiratory Integration you can use it to check in with your body and see how you are coping. If you’re not, I suggest just focusing on your breath for a few moments. What do you notice?
If you think that life stresses are affecting your physical health and want to find out more. Call now to find out how we can help, or book into one of our regular free Intro Talks (details in our Calendar) where we explain in more depth how you can go from stressed to thriving.