Chiropractic care helps to relieve stress by removing irritation to the nerves which allows the muscles to relax. When muscles are relaxed and your body is able to function at it’s best and get proper rest, it is better equipped to handle stress.
What physical effects does stress have on an individual’s body function?
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: It has a lot of effect on an individual’s body function because, when you really think about it, stress really comes from a survival mechanism that everyone’s heard of, or most everyone, called fight-or-flight. If I’m walking in the city late at night, and I turn a corner, and I’m startled by someone with a knife who’s asking for my cell phone and my wallet, the first thing that happens is I get this quick shot of adrenaline, right? My visual acuity, my pain sensitivity, auditory acuity, my strength, everything is increased all at once. Your body is 100% turned on and ready for the challenge that’s coming up, right, because I’m going to size up that kid. I’m thinking, well, maybe I can run away, maybe I could fight and keep my stuff or whatever. Either way, I get all amped up with the adrenaline, and my body needs that adrenaline because I need that energy to fight.
The other thing that happens is my body shifts into a different chemistry and starts secreting cortisol. Now, cortisol will do two really interesting things during a time of stress. The first thing it does is it shuts down insulin because insulin, generally, will put sugar away. Now, if I’m in a fight-or-flight situation where I need to run away or beat up this guy, whatever’s going on, my body needs the sugar in the bloodstream because that’s the energy source and that’s what my brain runs on. Correct?
That’s really what your body is doing. It’s preparing for this fight-or-flight situation and shifts into that chemistry. That’s the main effect it has.
However, sometimes when we’re just thinking about a stressful situation, like if we have a big exam coming up, I’m a college student and I’m thinking about that exam, my body and brain will actually go into that stress chemistry just thinking about the exam. Wherever my mind goes, my body goes and, all of a sudden, my body will start secreting that adrenaline, and I’ll get that feeling in my stomach, and I will also crank out a bunch of cortisol.
Cortisol, something else it does is it actually shuts off the immune system because when your body is in fight-or-flight or survival mode, it doesn’t really want anything to do with healing, right, because healing happens when you’re at rest. The body will heal when it’s at rest not when it’s in stress. So, stress can have a really negative effect on the body, especially if it’s sustained and long-term. It’s really designed to be a short-term mechanism to just kind of get you through that stressful situation or that immediate stress, not for a long-term thing, which many people are having these days.
How does a chiropractic adjustment help the body handle stress?
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, stress, over time, causes that accumulation of those chemicals of stress that we were talking about just a couple of seconds ago. They can accumulate in the body, and the physical manifestations of stress include lactic acid build up, carbon dioxide building up in the body in the muscles because we have a lot of excess muscle tension. Think about it, when people get stressed out, what do they feel? Tightness in their neck or tightness in their lower back. Some people might have a headache. Some people might get an upset stomach. Depending on where the weakness in the body is, the stress with have the most profound effect.
When we start to see muscles tightening up, you’ll pull the bones out of alignment, they’ll irritate the nerves more, and then when the nerves are irritated more, that puts more static in the lines of the nerve system, which creates more tension in the muscles, and then the muscles will keep getting tighter and tighter and keep pulling. This heightened amount of tension in the body will magnify pain signals, so pain signals are magnified.
Chiropractic helps right at the cause. It eliminates the irritation to the nerves, reduces that extra tension in the muscles, and promotes healing because when the muscles are relaxed, things are lined up, and your nerve system’s working correctly, your body can make the correct decisions, process whatever’s happened to it, break down those products of muscle metabolism that are building up, and really get the body back to normalization, normal physiology, and normal health.
Now, can a chiropractor reduce muscle tension and that tense feeling we get when we are stressed out? I know you just mentioned this.
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Yeah, it is a good question because I do have that similar answer to what we were talking about before because, really, it is that tension that builds up. When we’re stressed out, our body chemistry secretes that adrenaline. The muscles will tighten up. When the muscles are tight, they pull the bones out of alignment, and it creates that irritation or that vertebral subluxation. A chiropractor will go in there and make the corrections, get the pressure off the nerves, which should allow the muscles to relax. When the muscles aren’t pulling the bones so much, they don’t irritate the nerves as much, and then the whole central nervous system can lower that resting tone.
That’s really what we want to see because, if we can correct where the problem is starting from, get the muscles to relax, it doesn’t become a more chronic problem because the chiropractic adjustment provides a quick stretch to the small intrinsic muscles. Any time you stretch a muscle, it’s going to relax. You remove the irritation from the neural system, which allows the body to connect and communicate better. By stimulating the parasympathetic nerve system, we can bring that entire resting tone of the nerve system down because, typically, people who are under stress are in sympathetic overdrive.
Will regular chiropractic treatments help the body manage environmental stress and reduce the likelihood of a person getting sick?
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, I’ve touched on this before talking about, when you’re under stress, your body cranks out a lot of cortisol, which will shut down the immune system because your body doesn’t want anything to do with healing when it’s in survival mode. Your body will heal when it’s at rest. That’s why, when you’re sick or your body is fighting something, it’s very metabolically expensive. Your body uses all its energy to create white blood cells and to get the immune response going in the body. When your body is sick or your body is building anything, like a pregnant woman, there’s just not a lot of energy, so you’ll always be tired, so your body is actually telling you to rest. We need to listen to our bodies more and really let the body do what it’s designed to do because we weren’t designed to be sick. We truly were designed to be healthy. A body has an immune system which has the ability to actually heal itself. Our bodies are self-regulating, self-healing, and self-developing, and that’s a vitalistic philosophy.
What chiropractic says is if you remove the interference and allow the body to express its nerve system and nerve energy and communicate within itself without interference, it’s going to work better. Your immune system is going to work better and, yes, you should be less likely to have these colds and flus that people get when they’re sick because when they’re stressed out, again, the immune system is just not working as strong as it could be.
Can a chiropractor recommend a customized exercise or stretching plan to help relieve stress?
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Absolutely. A chiropractor can recommend numerous things to relieve stress: meditation, yoga. There are specific stretches that help alleviate tight muscles to go along with the spinal corrections that we provide. Remember, the chiropractic adjustment is only one piece of the puzzle. Meditation and relaxation techniques, a proper diet, proper rest is huge, are all the pieces of the same puzzle, so people can benefit even from working with a therapist if they’re stressed out a lot. You could actually prevent the stress from actually coming on. Once the physical manifestations of stress are present, then yes, a chiropractor and all these other things that I had mentioned can be of great help and benefit that patient.
Yeah, we can provide stress-relief techniques and things like that, but there’s also other trained professionals out there who can do the same. I wouldn’t say that a chiropractor’s job is to provide stretching and strengthening programs, but there are many chiropractors who have a lot of advanced training in those areas, and it’s good advice, and they can help you, generally, work on your overall health by encouraging you to exercise and relieve stress.
To speak with Dr. Gregg Rubinstein, visit www.ChiropractorMidtown.com or call 917-534-6484 to schedule an appointment