Those who seek chiropractic care usually present with soreness in their back or neck, but the advantages of a chiropractic adjustment span far beyond eliminating joint or muscle discomfort. Chiropractic has been shown to improve digestion, facilitate reproduction, boost immunity, and more!
How does it do this?
The answer lies in our body’s “stress response” or how we cope with daily stressors.
The four common stressors to the human body are physical, emotional, chemical, and environmental in origin. An example of a physical stressor would be something that causes the body physical discomfort from an injury. This could be something as mild as a paper cut or as severe as a broken bone. Increased stress at work because your boss is breathing down your neck would be considered an emotional stressor. The most common chemical stressor is inflammation, and the most common source is the consumption of “junk food”. Foods that are processed and filled with preservatives are looked at by the body as invaders and are treated as such. Environmental stressors to the human body come in the form of pollutants that we breathe in the air, radio waves, microwaves, Bluetooth, radiation, etc., all of which contribute to free radicals and put a strain on the body.
Did you know that no matter how significant or mild the stressor is, your body reacts to all forms of stress the same way?
In other words, your body will have the same physiological response to being chased by a grizzly bear as it would to being late to a 9:00 am office meeting. The way that your brain helps you cope with stress is by activating your sympathetic nervous system, or your “flight or fight” response. “Flight or fight” is a primitive response wherein your brain takes the body from a resting state of growth and function to a guarded state of vigilance and survival. This is a coping mechanism to help balance the strain on the body. The brain accomplishes this by stimulating the endocrine system to release stress hormones.
The most common stress hormones are Adrenaline, Norepinephrine, and Cortisol. When these hormones release into the bloodstream they pull the blood to areas of stress; to the muscles, so the body can fight or run away, to the heart, so it can pump faster to accommodate the demand, and to the brain, to heighten awareness and focus to deal with the stress. In short spurts, these stress hormones are beneficial in that they could save your life from physical harm, but in the long term, stress hormones flooding your body can be detrimental to your health. For example, if your heart rate is always elevated, it contributes to high blood pressure and stroke. If your cortisol is always elevated, it can lead to diabetes.
When stress hormones are released into the body your brain is concerned with one thing, survival. It’s not concerned with digesting that burrito you had for lunch today, or that you’ve been trying to get pregnant, or that you were exposed to a cold or flu at the gym this morning. Stress hormones pull blood to areas of stress by taking blood away from areas of growth – the digestive system, reproductive system, and immune system. When the blood flows away from these areas of growth it makes us susceptible to dysfunction in these regions.
Why do people who are stressed out all the time get stomach ulcers?
Why do couples who are under constant stress have difficulty getting pregnant?
After a week of final exams at school, why do I always seem to get sick?
The answer to all these questions has to do with stress.
But, how does Chiropractic care treat stress?
When you receive a chiropractic adjustment, it decreases the stress response in the body by treating pain. Stress from pain can be a combination of physical, emotional, and chemical stress to the body. Physical in that the vertebral misalignment may cause you physical discomfort. Chemical in regard to the fact the body increases inflammation to try to heal the problem. Emotional in the way the pain affects your quality of life.
By unlocking the stuck vertebrae (subluxation) and restoring proper motion and function to the area of injury, chiropractors decrease the stress response by decreasing muscle spasms and inflammation. The brain no longer feels the need to cope by releasing stress hormones which allow the blood to flow back from areas of stress to areas of growth, where it is beneficial to the health and well-being of the body.
The next time you wake up in the morning with a “kink” in your neck, understand that there is more at play than just sore muscles and decreased range of motion. The number one job of your brain is to maintain balance and harmony in the body so when exposed to a stressor it will adapt both structurally and physiologically to help you cope. Although the discomfort may subside over time, this is usually from the brain adapting as opposed to correcting.
Though chiropractic care may not be the magic cure for all of life’s stressors, it is an integral component in decreasing the stress response, restoring proper function to the body, and reaching optimal health.
Article written by Dr. Kevin Mikalaitis of Omni Chiropractic in Naples, FL.