Stress and its effect on our bodies.

Nov 26, 2020

Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances (like a pandemic??!) We all need a little bit of stress in our lives to help motivate us to get out of bed in the mornings and get tasks done. It is a necessary bodily response that historically kicked in to activate our sympathetic nervous systems for our ‘fight or flight’ response to help get us out of immediate danger (run from a lion!).

In modern life we face different challenges from our ancestors: we are less likely to be anxious about escaping from mammoths than worrying about finances, relationship struggles or problems at work. These issues can start a prolonged stress response which can have several negative effects on our bodies including increased inflammation levels, muscle tension and a sensitised nervous system. All of which are bad for pain.

Long term stress can alter you mood, leading to anxiety and depression. The lower the mood the more sensitive a person is to pain. This is one reason why I will ask patients about their stress levels before we begin treatment, as high stress can slow down the body’s healing response.

Finding ways to cope with stress and to boost mood is so important if we are trying to improve our general health as well as reduce pain levels. Some little tips to help with this:


1. Exercise

For many, exercise can be a great stress reliever. Even just 15 minutes per day to raise the heart rate and improve blood circulation to the brain can boost endorphins and improve mood. A brisk walk in nature is a great way to make the physical body work whilst also helping your mental well-being.




2. Laughter

Happiness is so important for our mental health. Laughter is known to relax the body and release endorphins which are the ‘feel good’ chemicals, which promote a general sense of well-being and alertness. Like exercise, laughter increases blood flow which can offer protection against heart attacks and other cardiovascular conditions. Finding joy in our lives will improve our mental health, so trying to find some activity that we love, even something as little as watching a comedy on TV or enjoying an evening with friends can make our lives more pleasant.


3. Nutrition

Most of us are aware of the benefits of following a healthy diet: protecting against a range of illnesses including heart disease and Diabetes, and helping to maintain a healthy weight. The brain also requires a variety of nutrients for it’s normal healthy function. The Mediterranean diet, which consists of oily fish, seeds, nuts, fruits, cereals and plant-based foods is considered to be one of the healthiest diets.




4. Sleep

The importance of sleep is often overlooked, but over time poor sleep patterns can be damaging to our mental well-being, leaving us prone to depression and anxiety. A 2010 study showed that those who get 5 hours or less sleep per night are more prone to mental illnesses than those who achieve 6-8 hours per night.

Attempting to practice a routine when it comes to sleep is really important, try to go to bed and wake up at the same times daily as this will help your sleep/wake cycle. A bedtime routine such as a warm bath or reading can be helpful as can reducing screen time prior to sleep.

An average adult should aim for 7-9 hours sleep per night for maximum mental and physical potential and lower the chances of any mental health illness.


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Mindset and stress levels have a huge effect on the levels of pain we feel and the speed at which we recover from pain. I often see patients suffering from physical pain who stop any exercise and gradually become more sedentary and lethargic and then struggle to maintain a healthy mindset, which worsens the physical pain. It becomes a vicious cycle. Patients suffering from back pain whilst experiencing high levels of stress can have slower tissue healing times, thus prolonging the recovery from pain and slowing the effects of Chiropractic care.

Trying to focus on being positive and following the tips above can help. And I’m always happy to give advice so don’t be scared to ask!

Email us on or phone us on 07980662229 to get your body back on track!