We all know that stress is bad for us; it increases our risk for heart attack, stroke, and diabetes. Did you also know that stress can effect your physical pain?
Our body doesn't know if you are stressed because you're being chased by a tiger or you have a rapidly approaching deadline for a major project; it reacts the same way. When you feel stressed your autonomic nervous system (ANS) is heightened causing increased heart rate, perspiration, and lightheadedness. From a musculoskeletal standpoint, your muscles will become hypertonic, or contract to a certain degree, without your knowledge. Again, since your body isn't sure what is actually stressing your system, it wants to be at the ready in case you do need to outrun a tiger.
If you're stressed on a regular basis, your ANS will "stay turned on" all the time. If you continue to live your life with a small amount of muscle hypertonicity (where your muscles are slightly contracted), you will no longer have normal mobilization of your joints. This can cause malalignments of those joints causing nerve compression and additional muscle spasm. Our bodies need to have muscles turn on and off in very specific ways in order to function in a biomechanically correct and pain-free way. If we are constantly trying to move around hypertonic/spasmed groups of muscle, we are bound to run into problems. Not only may you notice this as increased physical pain, you may also notice increased healing time or that you "just don't bounce back the way you used to."
At CORE Services, we offer physical therapy, biofeedback, and counseling services to help correct this dysfunction from all angles. If you feel like your stress is effecting your pain and would like to know more about how we can help, give us a call and set up an appointment!
For more on autonomic nervous system disorders, see the article here from the Mayo Clinic.