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Anxiety – Body, Mind – or BOTH?

Heart palpitations.

Stomach sinks.

Palms get sweaty and cold.

Thoughts become erratic, racing and filled with doom.

Anxiety is an extremely common condition affecting more than 3 million new people each year.  While the most common treatments involve medication (chemical) and/or counseling (mental/social), these methods can’t address the physical aspects of this condition.

Clients that suffer with anxiety present with imbalances in their autonomic nervous system.  (This is the fight/flight and rest/digest system) The nerve tissues often become irritated from restrictions in the surrounding structures – an irritation that will keep the system in a more elevated “fight or flight” mode.  With the system already heightened, it only takes a small mental or social challenge to stimulate anxiousness.

Tools and techniques given to you by your psychotherapist are crucial in managing these “flare-ups”, while ongoing counseling helps change the behaviors surrounding the symptoms.  Some medications help suppress the system to reduce symptom severity.  However, to treat the physical triggers and effects of anxiety, the tissues must be addressed through manual therapy to allow the nervous system to regain balance.

ASSESS YOURSELF!:

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Impacts of COVID related stress on the muscle system

Now that I have talked about effects on all the other systems of the body, I will focus on how stress affects the muscles. The initial response to flight or fight mode is all the larger muscles in the legs like hamstrings, quads prepare you to run away. The upper body muscles like biceps, triceps are ready to push, hit, etc.    The postural muscles deactivate, so all the stabilizing muscles and smaller muscles (containing high amounts of proprioceptors) deactivate affecting balance and proprioception.

With so many changes happening initially if the stress cycle continues the long term effects are adverse. Stress leads to muscle imbalances, fatigue, trigger points, balance and proprioception issues and loss of joint protection. Manual therapy plays an important role in addressing all the above issues by educating and treating the effects on muscles.  This is done through the nervous system and the brain by:

  • Balancing the autonomic nervous system
  • Working on stabilizing muscles
  • Postural reeducation
  • Isometric exercises
  • Range of motion and dynamic stretching
  • Balance
  • Proprioception and sensorimotor retraining
  • Trigger point and soft tissue treatment
  • And more!

The last but not the least is sleep. Stay tuned to read more about stress and its effects on sleep.

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Sleeplessness from quarantine??? Here is why!

We are going through an unprecedented time and in addition to so many other adverse effects, COVID is causing sleepless nights.

The effects of stress on mental and physical health are getting worse. The acute phase of stress leads to a reduction in sleep, vigilance and an adrenaline rush in the system to prepare you for flight or fight. The continuation of stress causes difficulty in falling asleep, fatigue, no deep phases of sleep, sensitivity, irritability and decreased memory. This eventually accumulates to causing more physical issues – and the cycle continues.

The most important treatment is pain neuroscience education (PNE) to explain the symptoms and reduce the threat to the brain. PNE in combination with manual therapy can lead to amazing results with a patient’s recovery. The primary goal is to regulate and calm the nervous system and the brain down. Sleep hygiene, sleep study evaluation, nutrition, exercise, journaling are other great treatment options to help address sleep issues.

Now that I have covered a lot about stress and its impact on various systems of the body and have also suggested different treatment options please do not wait to take care of yourself and loved ones. My team at Move Physio is open for consultation, evaluation and treatment.

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Is it COVID or fear of COVID challenging the immune system?

People with underlying conditions or immune compromised patients are severely affected by COVID. Can fear of getting COVID suppress your immune system making you prone to illness?

Initial phases of stress begins to slow the immune system. As the stress continues immune deficiency sets in, which makes you more prone to infection – like sore throats, flu, etc. This causes prolonged swelling and inflammation of tissues increasing overall tenderness. It can also lead to memory changes, altered body maps, neglect and spreading pain.

Specific manual therapy methods can focus on organ mobilization, help circulation, oxygen exchange, ion channel balance, clearing toxins from the system and promote healthy cell growth – which helps boost immunity. Other potential things like goal setting, coping skills, humor social interaction are also very important.

I hope you are enjoying the blogs and learning a lot. Keep reading to learn the impacts of stress on musculoskeletal (muscle) system.

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Does stress affect your breathing???

Have you ever felt like you are unable to take a deep breath when you are anxious, frightened or angry? With heightened stress, the diaphragm shuts down and you start using all the accessory muscles in your chest and neck… and the breathing becomes fast and very shallow. When the stress continues longer, it creates muscle imbalances, decreases blood flow and oxygenation of tissue, increases nerve sensitivity and increases heart rate – leading to a chronic fatigue.

Targeted, functional manual therapy treatment helps to improve the activation of the diaphragm, retrain the system to correct muscle imbalances and use the primary muscle for breathing. This enhances the ability of the body to take deep breaths. Other treatments like yoga, breathing exercises, relaxation techniques and meditation can also play a huge role in recovery.

Keep reading…My next blog will be focusing on immune response to stress!

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Endocrine Response to Stress

The Endocrine system causes changes at the tissue level as well as changes in the brain due to the fight or flight mode initiated by stress. The changes at the tissue level include fatigue, sensitivity, soreness, tiredness and sluggishness – which leads to deconditioning.

Changes at the brain level can be serious, like short term memory loss, weight gain, mood swings, problems with focus and concentration and changes in appetite.

Targeted, manual therapy can help regulate the endocrine system and in turn help the tissues and brain. Other treatment options include nutrition, pacing, meditation, cardio exercises.

My next article will discuss how the respiratory system is also affected by stress, changes and potential treatment options.

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Sympathetic response to stress

Stress (fear, panic, anxiety) leads to activating the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). When you are in that mode the brain secretes hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) to keep you wide awake – your pupils dilate, heart rate increases, blood is diverted to areas in need of extra blood and oxygen and you become hyper vigilant as you are preparing to flee or fight.

What happens when this phase continues longer – like it is right now with these unprecedented times?

Long term effects from the ramped up sympathetic system will cause increased sensitivity in the peripheral nerves in the body, sleep disturbance (unable to get into deep phases), changes in the digestive system, increase development of trigger points, irritability, increased pain – leading to exhaustion.

A lot of things can help balance the nervous system… like specialized manual therapy that focuses on treatment of the nerves and brain, mindfulness and meditation, yoga, sleep hygiene and aerobic exercise.

Follow up for the next phase of the stress cycle – endocrine system coming up in my next blog.

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COVID stress cycle…The real culprit of physical pain?

Emotional response (fear, anxiety, grief, frustration) to COVID 19 can lead to adverse effects on physical health. Wondering how? Stress releases chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol which leads to increased heart rate, tightening muscles in the body, eventually leading to musculoskeletal limitations causing physical pain such as low back, neck, shoulder, hip, knee pain, etc..

I will be posting follow up articles explaining each phase of the cycle, its effects on the body and how to manage them.

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Enhanced Immune Function

Most people understand the basic function of the Immune System.  Like a built-in security system, it monitors everything coming into your body to ensure it belongs there.  When the system performs optimally, it detects harmful intruders and damaged tissue and responds appropriately.

Like any other system, Immune function can become over-challenged and under-supported. It may be obvious that a poorly functioning Immune system would lead to a person getting sick more often.  What may not be obvious is that Immune OVER-reaction is also a sign of a dysfunctional system.  This over-reaction can commonly be seen in auto-immune conditions…and more recently in the more severe cases of people affected by COVID-19.

Most people will try to help their immunity by taking Zinc, Vitamin C and drinking tea.  While these tactics are useful, there’s more that can be done…

MOST OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM LIVES IN THE GUT

This gives us insight into three major ways we can support Immune function: Water, Food and Digestion.

Water:

If you’re tissues are dry, so are your nasal passages, throat and lungs…and this makes it harder for them to keep bad stuff (like viruses) out of them.  Dehydration thickens your blood, slowing the transport of vital nutrients and immune cells. It also makes your skin more brittle, making it easier to crack or split and allowing bad stuff inside.  Among 100’s of other issues, being dehydrated also slows the process of digestion, which we will cover later…

Diet:

While every person is very different than the next, there are some foods that are most common to create an immune response.  These are not “allergies” per se, but introducing these substances can increase the responsiveness of the immune system, unnecessarily. At the top of that list is sugar / simple starches (including bread and it’s derivatives). Gluten and Corn compete for 2nd place.  Further explanation of this is warranted, but is beyond the scope of this article.  Suffice it to say that if you cut these things out (which is not easy), you’re likely to reduce strain on your Immune system and free up resources for improved healing and response.

Digestion:

This is a huge topic, so we’ll just skim the surface.  Symptoms like diarrhea, constipation and bloating are signs that the digestive system is working too hard to do its job efficiently.  While medicines can temporarily ‘help’ with symptoms, they do little to FIX the issues here.  This is where Visceral Manipulation (VM) is extremely helpful.  VM can not only restore the basic functions of digestion, but can be instrumental in helping the body FIX the causes of conditions like reflux, colitis and IBS.

A happy, healthy and EFFICIENT gut will greatly improve your immune and cognitive function.  Don’t believe me?  Try a session of VM and see for yourself!

 

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Suffering from the Effects of Abdominal Surgery?

After abdominal surgery, it is very common for patients to have symptoms like heart burn, acid reflux, constipation, bloating, incontinence, core weakness, low back pain or neck pain.

While it may seem unrelated, these symptoms may be a sign of restrictions in the organs…Usually a side effect of surgery.

Every surgery (even “minimally invasive”) can lead to restrictions within the connective tissues. This can cause myofascial restrictions which can create musculoskeletal problems, nerve symptoms and even visceral symptoms (Acid reflux, breathing issues, bloating, constipation, etc).

Hands on (manual) therapy is a very powerful tool that can clear restrictions, not only in the myofascial system, but also in the organs themselves.  This treatment can help prevent scar tissue, muscle and joint issues, nerve problems and fluid imbalance. Manual treatment also has the ability to help prevent the need for certain surgeries (like hernia repair, gallbladder removal) by improving the mobility and motility of the organs by reinforcing homeostasis.