Chiropractic care and massage can assist with stress reduction.
Causes and Symptoms of Stress
Stimuli in the environment that disturb our mental or physical equilibrium cause stress. The body may fill with the hormone adrenaline, creating a “fight or flight” response. While a temporary and small amount of “acute stress” may be thrilling, it is the “chronic stress” over the long run that can harm health.1 Symptoms of stress include depression, illness, stomach pain, headaches, and sleeping problems.2 Positive, negative, perceived, or real changes can all trigger a stress response. Some of the events that cause the stress response include the daily commute, vacation travel, moving, scary movies, rollercoasters, a traumatic event, an accident, a divorce, or an illness. Some stress is good, such as when it is a response to something dangerous and saves a person’s life, because the brain “uses more oxygen and increases activity” and “your pulse quickens, you breathe faster, your muscles tense”, and even the immune system is boosted. It is the chronic stress that leads to trouble. The short-burst chemicals that are necessary for survival actually lower the immune system over time, and the reproductive, excretory, and digestive systems begin to work improperly. The three stress types are traumatic stress (such as war, assault, or a huge accident), stress from a negative life change (such as illness, divorce, or job loss), and routine stress (such as family, work, and daily issues). Some people might experience more mood issues, others could have more digestive problems, and even frequent infections are another reaction. Over time, stress can lead to diabetes, anxiety disorders, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other problems.3
Stress does not just impact emotions, it can worsen or even increase the risk of getting several disorders. A “Type A” or stressed-out personality has a higher risk of developing heart problems and high blood pressure. Stress increases blood flow and heart rate, and it releases triglycerides and cholesterol into the blood. Stress can also lead to obesity or smoking, and this could eventually increase the risk of heart attacks. “Sudden emotional stress can be a trigger for…cardiac problems” and those with heart disease should “avoid acute stress” and manage the unavoidable stressors in life. Increases in cortisol hormone levels is related to an increase in belly fat, which contributes to more health risks. Diabetes can also become worse, since these emotional feelings may lead to excessive drinking and unhealthy eating. In addition, glucose levels are directly tied to stress. Asthma, anxiety, depression, headaches, and migraines can also be worsened by stress. Interestingly, stress does not cause ulcers, but it might worsen them, and it is a common factor in heartburn (GERD), and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Stress can accelerate aging, lead to premature death, and can worsen Alzheimer’s disease, if it is not under control. With Alzheimer’s disease, brain lesions may “form more quickly”, but a decrease in stress could “slow down the progression of the disease”.4
Stress Reduction Methods
Some simple methods of stress reduction include exercising, meditating, journaling, hobbies, or socializing.5 Seeking mental health professionals, getting proper healthcare, avoiding “dwelling on problems”, scheduling relaxing and healthy activities, yoga, tai chi, and getting emotional support are other ways of dealing with stress.6 The American Chiropractic Association recommends the following: thinking positively, enjoying nature, aromatherapy, drinking tea, laughing, building a support system, music, calming the mind, and exercising.7 Regular chiropractic care can improve overall health; it is not just for short-term pain relief. Adjustments can reduce stress and lower blood pressure, provide relief from low back pain, and they offer many more benefits.8 Another useful therapy for reducing stress is massage. Massage therapy could help with back pain, insomnia, headaches, anxiety, injuries, and other disorders.9
Massage Relaxation Techniques
Massage techniques that are said to be most useful for stress reduction are Swedish massage, head massage, aromatherapy massage, and auricular acupressure. In Swedish massage, the most common form, motions are used “to decompress muscle tissue, release tension and break up muscular knots”. There are various strokes involved, including long strokes, kneading, friction, vibration, percussion, and shaking. As a result, blood circulation is enhanced, tendons are stretched, and blood pressure is reduced. The most relaxing parts of a Swedish massage, however, are the “long, smooth gliding strokes”. The cranium, or head, needs treatment in massage as well. Thin scalp muscles hold tension. This area of the body may receive attention during a Swedish massage or during an “Ayurvedic head oil massage known as champi”. It could also be helpful to add essential oils to the massage lotion or oil. There is a connection between the nostrils and the limbic system, which is a part of the brain that is in charge of controlling emotions, influencing the hormones and nervous system. The relaxing essential oils to inhale are lavender, chamomiles, and geranium. The ear is thought to be like “an inverted fetus” with the feet at the top, the head at the lower part of the earlobe, and the body between. There are “several hundred pressure points” that can be massage to release endorphins, which are “natural, stress-relieving hormones”.10
Lifestyle Options, Stretches, and Chiropractic Treatments
There are physical causes of stress (improper lifting, repetitive motion, rotating work shifts, car accidents, being overweight, or falls and slips), emotional causes (self-esteem issues, death of a loved one, divorce, moving, alienation, or family problems), and chemical causes (caffeine, overeating, refined sugars and corn syrup consumption, hormones, or medications). Chiropractors might recommend lifestyle changes, such as avoiding caffeine and high sugar or high fat foods. Patients may be encouraged to exercise and get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Prioritizing and reducing the “to-do list”, but also letting some things go, could be useful. There are some stretches that can be done to reduce tension, such as ones for the neck and shoulders, ones for the upper back and shoulders, and some for the lower back and hamstrings. Each of these can be held for 20-30 seconds at a time and repeated three times for each side of the body. The one for the neck and shoulder involves sitting with the back against the wall and reaching over the head to the ear and gently pulling the head down to the shoulder, keeping the shoulders down. The upper back and shoulder stretch requires standing with the back straight and feet apart while reaching for the ceiling, one arm at a time, while keeping the shoulder down. The stretch for the lower back and hamstring area involves sitting and tightening the abdominal muscles while bending and reaching for the toes.11 Stress can be caused by “prolonged muscle tension and contraction”. When this occurs, there are “uneven pressures on bony structures”, which can lead to misalignments in the spine (subluxations). In addition, being chronically stressed-out can lead to “nerve irritation”. When the chiropractor performs an adjustment, the muscle tension is released. As a result, the body can return to a relaxed and balanced state. The nerve irritation is reduced and blood circulation is improved. The body then may adapt by turning off the “fight or flight response” so that the body can begin to heal itself.12
Find out more about chiropractic care for anxiety and depression.