Tag: Anxiety

Chronic stress- what does it actually do to us?

Does back pain worsen around Christmas-time? If you asked us, we’ve got enough anecdotal evidence to say yes. But why is that? Clinic gets busier, our patients report symptoms are worse and then blame it on the weather… Now why is this? Well, simply put, as we get towards the festive period and the existing stress in our lives is ramped up yet another notch, we often start to see physical manifestations of underlying stress rear their ugly heads in the form of pain and illness.

Now, it’s not news that stress plays a part in pain and disease. What we’re interested in is chronic stress, and how this can make us ill. I wanted to find out more about the role of chronic stress, so I’ve been working my way through a reading list, including  “Why Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers” by Robert Sapolsky. Now, this blog isn’t really about the inner workings of a zebra’s digestive system, it’s a book which focuses on why we as humans have developed a whole range of accumulative diseases as a result of living our lives chronically stressed. It explains how our body adapts to stress and details what the healthcare profession have had to learn in order to manage our patient’s stress.

Where we used to be killed off by cholera, influenza and leprosy (which did the job fairly quickly, it has to be said), we now suffer long, slow diseases that come about as the result of gradually accumulating a number of healthcare issues. Cancer. Heart disease. Strokes.

In the words of Mr Sapolsky, “Chronic stress can make you sick.”

So why don’t zebras get ulcers? Simply put, zebras don’t get ulcers because they don’t spend hours, days, or weeks stressing about making the mortgage repayment. Or worrying about your big project which needs completing by the end of the month. They worry about if a lion is going to eat them in the next 10 minutes. Their stress is short and to-the-point. It’s only we humans who have geared ourselves up physiologically to have all sorts of physical manifestations to stressful events generated entirely in our heads. If you’ve ever experienced sweaty palms or a racing heartbeat whilst thinking about what might go wrong then you know what I mean. Zebras just don’t do that.

Stress health wellness function disease illness chiropractic chiropractor lifestyle coping mechanism stressors immune sleep function cognitive memory work office job
Look at him. Isn’t he majestic? Not a care in the world and no ulcers in sight!

It’s safe to say most of us nowadays live our lives in a state of chronic stress. We don’t take time to look after ourselves and truly de-stress (a soak in a bath doesn’t count!)

What does chronic stress do to our bodies?

In short- chronic stress wreaks havoc. Your body’s response to an acute stressor is perfectly suited for its job. Stress health wellness function disease illness chiropractic chiropractor lifestyle coping mechanism stressors immune sleep function cognitive memory work office jobYou’re home alone and hear footsteps upstairs- your heart starts racing, blood pressure and breathing rate increase as your body prepares to transport nutrients and oxygen to your muscles STAT. Why?

Because your muscles are going to need that energy as you hot-foot it out the door faster than Usain Bolt! Your body also shuts down digestion (because absorbing dinner suddenly isn’t so important) growth and tissue repair stop, senses are sharpened, sexual drive decreases, and the immune system becomes inhibited (there’s plenty of time to hunt for tumours in a week or so- right now, all your body cares about is getting out of the house and out of danger pronto). Oh, and another neat feature: To stop your body going into shock from extreme pain, your pain perception is decreased. Handy!

So- all good responses from the body and we’re out of danger now thankyouverymuch. But what happens if that stressor doesn’t go away? If your stressor is a busy desk job in a Fortune 500 company, you’ll never be able to switch off the stress response. You might find your heart rate stays at about 180/100 and steers you towards an early heart attack. Your digestion is going haywire, tissue healing and recovery is halted so nothing is ever repaired (hello ulcers!). Not only that, but you’ll never store any surplus energy because your body is mobilised to use it all straight away, and you’ll fatigue quickly.

Sounds bad, doesn’t it? It doesn’t stop there though. Illnesses and viruses will be easier to pick up and harder to recover from if your immune system is permanently compromised. This becomes particularly noticeable at this time of year when germs and viruses are floating around. You’ll be shaping up for a very snotty Christmas indeed if you’re stressed!Stress health wellness function disease illness chiropractic chiropractor lifestyle coping mechanism stressors immune sleep function cognitive memory work office job

Stress disrupts our lives. It can make us very ill.  As a chiropractor, my chronically stressed patients have widespread muscular tension and sometimes heightened sensitivity to pain. They suffer from headaches or jaw pain, visual disturbances, lower back pain, tummy upsets… Stress causes changes in our nervous system and can result in muscle tension, spasm, and pain. Now, I can adjust their neck to alleviate the headache, but that won’t help if the headache is a result of chronic stress. We need to manage their stress and anxiety or the headaches will just keep coming back (as any of my patients will tell you- I’m focussed on the long-term resolution.)

So what are we going to do about stress?

There are various management techniques and these all work for different people- you’ll have to find what works for you.

Exercise: A simple place to start is with exercise- being physically fit can lower blood pressure, resting heart rate and increase your lung capacity (yes- directly counteracting the effects of stress). Simply put, exercise releases endorphins and endorphins make you happy PLUS it increases your feeling of self-efficacy and achievement. Instead of sitting at a desk getting tense, you’ll be using your stress response for what it’s meant to do- explosive activity! That’s how exercise can be a powerful way of reducing stress.

There are a few caveats to this though:

  1. Exercise only works to reduce stress if you want to exercise. Your friends forcing you into a spin class isn’t going to help!
  2. It’s effects are short-lived, lasting only for 24-48 hours. So you have to do it regularly to see the benefit.
  3. Too much exercise or overtraining can produce a stress response.

Psychotherapy: For natural stress-heads (or, to use the correct term- type A personality), psychotherapy can change your behaviour, lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of a heart attack. Stress often depends on how we view problems, and some studies have found that in the face of terrible news, denial and hope are strong coping mechanisms. Don’t accept a poor prognosis and hope for the best- miracles can’t happen.

Ommm… Zen: Meditation is another interesting one. It can decrease glucocorticoid levels and decrease muscle tone/tension. But again, studies show that it works while meditating, but doesn’t necessarily have a long-term effect.

Social Support: In the immortal words of the Beatles, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” Giving and receiving support from the right friends is going to help, as will the support of a partner or spouse. A problem shared is a problem halved!

What about control?

Understanding PainIf you’ve downloaded our resource “Understanding Pain” you’ll already know all about this. If you haven’t downloaded it, we’d suggest you do!  Control and belief in your own self-efficacy is a powerful thing. Whilst you can’t have full control over the fact that you have stressful projects to complete, you can gather information about how long the project is going to take for you to complete, what the goals are and who you’ll be working with. This predictive information about impending stressors can help to reduce your stress levels by giving you some control over the situation. This is in much the same way that learning about chronic pain can help you control, cope with and reduce your pain.

The caveat to this is that control isn’t always such a good thing psychologically. If, for example, you have control over a situation that ends up disastrously, that’s going to be completely detrimental to your psychological health. Believing that everything challenge in life can be overcome “provided we work hard for it”, can leave you in a stressed heap in the corner.

How do you cope?

We also need to talk about cognitive flexibility. This is the ultimate ability to “cope”. Try problem-solving the issue and working out if it’s the stressor that needs altering, or your perception of it that does. This can be hugely stress-reducing. Admit that you’re finding something stressful and rely on social support from friends and loved ones- they’ll want to help. You’ll need a selection of coping strategies to effectively deal with stress. You might have a Stress health wellness function disease illness chiropractic chiropractor lifestyle coping mechanism stressors immune sleep function cognitive memory work office jobtendency to try to cope with an event, fail, and then go back in and try to cope even harder with the same strategies. If a cup of tea and a chat with friends hasn’t worked, try something different. A meditation class. The gym. Yoga. Speak to a psychotherapist. During times of stress, finding the right coping mechanism for you is critical.

 

Here’s our ultimate stress-busting check list:

  • Find ways to view even the most stressful situation as holding the promise of hope and improvement. But don’t deny the possibility that things will not improve.  As they say, “hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.”
  • Take the time to look after yourself, using coping mechanisms that work for you. However, don’t give ulcers to others to avoid getting them yourself. You might find that a midnight drumming session is just the trick to soothe your nerves, but it’s going to make your neighbour’s life awful!
  • What can you predict about the upcoming stressful events in your life? Is your toddler likely to have an over-stimulation meltdown in the middle of Christmas lunch? If so, plan for a quiet hour beforehand to allow them to settle and calm. Guests coming for Christmas dinner and worried about cooking? Gather as much information as you can about them before you turn on the oven! Are there any food allergies, what can you prepare instead? Gather as much information about the upcoming stressors as you can, and then implement a plan to help you cope.

Accept the things we cannot change

In this blog we’ve learnt about just how stress can impact on our lives and wreak havoc in our bodies. There’s no one way to avoid stress- moving to a remote desert island is going to give you all sorts of acute stresses like our poor zebras. (Just think about all the poisonous critters who might see you as a tasty treat!) Fortunately there are numerous ways in which we can cope with and reduce the stress we experience.

The real world is full of stress yet many of these issues aren’t real, we’re worrying over what might happen. Imagined stressors can take over our lives with worry in anticipation of a horrible event happening. It may happen, it may not- worrying about it isn’t going to make it any easier to cope with!

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Healthcare: What made the headlines in 2015?

They say money never sleeps, but in reality, it’s healthcare that never sleeps. Constant innovation, new technologies, new treatments, medications, therapies and more, healthcare is changing and developing fast enough to make your head spin.

Happy New Year!

With a New Year just hours away, we thought we’d take the opportunity to review the latest and greatest developments in healthcare throughout 2015, as well as popular healthcare articles that made headlines and our own most popular content.

1.  A cure for Ebola

This, without doubt, is top of our list of 2015’s successes. Since the 2014 ebola outbreak, over 11,300 lives have been lost but a new vaccine that has been heralded as a “potential game changer” saw a huge drop in the number of new cases. Whilst the disease has not been totally defeated yet with a risk of new outbreaks or long-term side effects still a very real issue, just two days ago, the World Health Organisation declared an end to the ebola outbreak in Guinea.

2. Sexism in the ER

One of the most widely-shared articles on the internet in 2015, this article from The Atlantic posed some interesting questions about how doctors interpret (or in fact, underestimate) women’s pain.  In America, men wait an average of 49 minutes before receiving an analgesic for acute abdominal pain. Women wait an average of 65 minutes for the same thing.  A harrowing and extreme example perhaps, but it highlights the ultimate need for all healthcare professionals to listen, understand and consider each person as an individual before making a clinical decision. There is no place for assumptions or generalisations in healthcare.

3. When the media gets it wrong

In a classic example of misinterpretation, a report from the American Journal of Cardiology caused quite a stir when it suggested that “strenuous jogging is as bad as no exercise at all.” The claims were quickly clarified by the NHS, as what the media failed to make clear here was the size of the demographic involved Acorn Health Mensin the study- once the 1500 participants had been split into groups based on duration, frequency, and pace, some individual groups – particularly the most active groups – were (by research standards) too small to draw any real clinical significance from, with just 36 runners classified as “strenuous joggers.” As a result, the analyses conducted were less able to detect what, if any differences were present between the two groups.  A classic example of needing to know the full picture when drawing a healthcare conclusion like this. (N.B.  The biggest concern with exercise is not “overdoing” it. It’s not doing enough! If you’re thinking of taking up a new hobby in 2016, let’s keep you injury free.)

4. Kinesiology tape

Our most popular post of 2015 was “Kinesiotape during Pregnancy”, which to date has had a whopping 22,800 social shares. Kinesiotape is paradoxically gentle, yet strong, and depending on the way it is applied, it creates an effect on skin that improves circulation, relieves pain and supports muscles and joints which can be a huge help for mums to alleviate some of the postural aches and pains associated with a growing bump!

5. Back pain and paracetamol

An article published in the British Medical Journal back in March of 2015 confirmed what many of us have known for some time- that paracetamol is ineffective for back pain.  With prescription of paracetamol being the most common approach to treatment used by general practitioners for spinal pain and osteoarthritis of the hip or knee, this has highlighted the need for a review and potential reconsideration of current recommendations that support the use of paracetamol for these groups.  The current guidelines from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence support the use of manual therapy for low back pain, alongside a structured exercise programme. Good news for Acorn Health patients who will know this is a fundamental part of our treatment programmes.

6. Our big news

2015 was a fantastic year for us as Philippa was accepted into the Royal College of Chiropractor’s specialist Pregnancy and Paediatric Faculty.  These specialist faculties recognise chiropractors who have undertaken Corporate office business work workstation assessment chiropractic chiropractor back pain health Emsworth Chichester Portsmouth Hampshire Farehamformal postgraduate studies and have specialist knowledge and expertise in their particular fields and Philippa was delighted to be welcome into the Paediatric Faculty in addition to her already acheiving Licenciate status with the specialist Pain Faculty.  Not only that, but 2015 also saw Acorn Health pick up
it’s second national award with the Royal College of Chiropractors, the Clinical Managment Quality Mark, which is awarded to those clinics that demonstrate excellence in terms of operating within a structured and managed clinical environment. The clinics must demonstrate excellence in a range of areas including clinical audit, incident reporting and patient satisfaction.

We were also delighted this year to have been accepted as a Dementia Friendly Business with the Hampshire Dementia Action Alliance, part of the Dementia Friends group.

7. #NHSWorkingXmas

Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir beat out Justin Bieber for No 1 and the hashtag #NHSWorkingXmas became a Twitter trending sensation in the UK. Yes, 2015 was the year that the NHS fought back!  With the start of the year plagued with media coverage of Jeremy Hunt’s intention to impose new contracts affecting junior doctors throughout the NHS, doctors promptly took matters into their own hands and answered back with #ImInWorkJeremy, in response to the health minister’s comments on a “Monday to Friday working culture” within the NHS. With a number 1 single under their belt and a Twitter trend to their name, we felt that the NHS saw the year out on a high note!

8. Sugary Strikeback

red berries acorn health food fruit2015 brought sugar to the small screen in the form of the controversial Jamie’s Sugar Rush. One of our favourite pieces of the year was this article from the Huffington Post, showing what sugar does to your brain. In addition to being a key contributor to rising obesity levels, sugar is also known to impair memory, contribute to depression and anxiety and is linked to cognitive decline and dementia.  2015 was definitely the year that the UK began to combat the hidden sugars in our food, and began to make healthier dietary choices.

9. First Paracetamol, now Nurofen

The UK-based manufacturers of Nurofen, Reckitt-Benckiser were forced to defend their product after Australian courts ordered certain products off the shelves after finding each product, despite being marketed as able to treat specific pains, such as migraine, were identical to one another and contained the same active ingredient, ibuprofen lysine 342mg. Prices for these products also averaged around £3.49 for a box of 16 capsules. Why is it that snazzy packaging and good marketing so often tempts us in? We’ve said it once, we’ll say it again. Save your money and buy generic. (They’ll cost you about 30p instead!)

10. Paraplegic man walks again

An accident 5 years ago left a 26 year old American man paralysed from the waist down, unable to use his legs. This year, scientists successfully rerouted nerve signals from the man’s brain to electrodes on his knees, enabling him to become the first person with paraplegia caused by a spinal injury to walk without relying on robotic limbs that are controlled manually.  Yes, our jaws dropped at this one too.  Around 50,000 people in the UK live with paralysis, and whilst this treatment surely won’t be appropriate or possible for each of them, it was a truly groundbreaking achievement in science, and a step on the path to giving this young man back his independence.

Quick bits:

Gosh- you see what we mean about how much takes place in a year? We know there’s been hundreds of new developments, too many to even mention, but we wanted to highlight a few of our favourites from 2015.

We have an exciting year lined up for us, with a new clinic opening at ActivHealth, Langstone Technology Park, Havant. We also have big plans for the introduction of new and improved online resources, new courses and workshops to be held and a few surprises we have in store for you (but aren’t quite ready to share yet!)

May we wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year!

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Acorn Health Limited © 2014 - 2020

Website Created by WebHolism