The first week of every November, the world recognizes one of the most important factors in overall health and wellbeing: STRESS! If you read the word STRESS and then began to notice all the pains and aches in your body, there’s a reason for that. Stress is both a psychological and physiological response, and many of the outcomes of stress result in physical pain and poor health. At Absolute Rehab Centre, we see the effects of stress in our patients, especially when they come in with pain not triggered by an injury or condition. Learn about how you can be aware of your body’s stress and ways to cope with stress with Massage Therapy and Acupuncture. 

What Is Stress and Why Do People Get Stressed?

Stress, a phenomenon that is triggered by a chemical reaction in the central nervous system to either “fight or flight” when we perceive a situation as fearful or overwhelming. The central nervous system, located in your brain and through the spinal cord, sends out extra hormones when a situation is stressful. The brain tells your body to send out extra adrenaline and cortisol along with a group of hormones, sometimes referred to as a group of stress hormones, which help pump up the body for action—whether it is fighting through a situation or fleeing from it. They make your heart work faster, increase your blood pressure, quicken your breath and make the senses work in overtime. When these reactions happen, your body also gets a boost of strength, overall stamina, reaction time and focus.

Adrenaline and cortisol can be useful as a short-term reaction—like when you’re about to run a marathon and need stamina on your side, or when you’re just a few hours away from a work deadline and feel extra focused because you know you’re working against the clock. They’re even handy when you need to flee from a scary situation—like if you’ve ever come face to face with a bear.

In small surges, these hormones are what help us get through some of life’s most challenging moments and can give us exactly what we need. But what happens when the brain is always releasing the “fight or flight” hormones?

Chronic Stress And Your Body 

Chronic stress occurs when there isn’t a break in the release of stress hormones. If your brain perceives that you are constantly facing obstacles that are fearful or overwhelming, your central nervous system will follow suit and tell your body that it needs to prepare for a fight or flight. Now not only is the brain working on overtime but so are your hormones and your muscles.

Chronic Stress has patients of Absolute Rehab Centre and those across Canada, putting their bodies in danger. Over time, the body will either constantly remain in a state of high-stress because there is no break in perceived fearful or overwhelming events, or the body will be easily triggered into finding a situation stressful. For example, if you are always stressed out about work deadlines, the body will remain in a high state of stress as you work on them, or the body will have a heightened response with each new work task you get.

With muscles working overtime and more blood flowing through the system, there are physical effects to stress that many patients of Absolute Rehab and across Canada, may notice. Some of the basic physical effects include muscle pain and headaches, but it can also be as bad as nausea, chest pain, and a lack of a sex drive. All of these are related to the muscles and how the body is responding to the perceived stressful situations.

How Can Physiotherapy Help With Stress?

Our Waterloo Physiotherapy team, Waterloo Massage Therapy team and Waterloo Acupuncturists see patients for stress-related muscle pain on a more regular basis than we would hope. In today’s world, it seems that stress can be inescapable. It’s important to not only find coping mechanisms to deal with stress but to seek physical therapy to aid in healing your muscles from being overworked. Here are a few ways that our Waterloo Physiotherapists, Massage Therapists, and Acupuncturists can help you heal from stress.

Massage Therapy for Stress and Headaches

A group of muscles that can feel the effect of stress the most are the muscles in your face, neck, shoulders and head. A Registered Massage Therapist will work on relaxing the muscles in these areas by completing a series of movements that release tension in the surface of the muscles, allowing for them to loosen and move more freely than previously. This can also help those with nerves trapped in tight muscles. By loosening the muscles around these nerves, the nerves can then operate without blockages in their pathways. Patients that receive massage therapy in the face, neck, shoulders and head will also unlock one of the key contributors of headaches—tension. Although headaches can be caused by a variety of things, muscle tension in the ligaments around the skull and muscle tension through the temples, are the most common culprits. A Massage Therapist can help by specifically focusing on these pathways. They may recommend that heighten your awareness of stress in the head area by reminding you to do a check-in during the day to see how tense your muscles are. Your Massage Therapist may also suggest getting a night mouth guard for those who have particularly tight muscles in the jaw, so they do not wake up in the morning with headaches.

Physiotherapy for Stress And Muscle Memory

If you have been dealing with chronic stress for quite some time, you may also need Physiotherapy to help you relearn how to use your muscles. Sometimes when patients come in after being stressed for long periods of time, they show signs of neglecting the use of particular muscle groups. A Physiotherapist can help these patients gain motion, control and power in these muscles once again with some exercises that they will do while at Absolute Rehab Centre as well as exercises they can do at home. Physiotherapists may also recommend making some lifestyle changes. For those who find themselves to be tensing at work and locking up their muscles, they may recommend setting timers to get up and stretch or complete a small set of physiotherapy exercises. As you learn to stay in control of your muscles and reteach your muscles to move how they should, the less prone you are to stress and it’s damage.

Acupuncture For Release of Stress

Acupuncture targets stress by placing needles in Acupuncture points that correlate to the muscles and organs that are under stress. In modern medicine, Acupuncture points have a direct line to the central nervous system, which influences the body to decrease the stress hormones and release a painkilling hormone, morphine. If you view Acupuncture from the lens of traditional Chinese medicine, the Acupuncture points work in a similar way, however, it is believed that the stimulation opens up the meridians (pathways) so that Qi (pronounced chee) or energy can flow through them.

How Can I Get Rid of My Stress?

Getting rid of stress comes from a balance of taking care of your muscles and your body while nourishing your mind with coping mechanisms to deal with stress as it comes. Although we don’t specialize in coping strategies, Absolute Rehab Centre does specialize in helping patients get their bodies back in motion after dealing with chronic stress. Whether you book in for Massage Therapy, Physiotherapy or Acupuncture, our providers will be happy to relieve your muscle tension to get you on a path of healing.