Stress is a common cause of headaches, migraines, high blood pressure and even depression. We put our bodies through a large amount of stress on a daily basis without realising it. Emotional stresses like mental tensions, frustrations, and insecurity cause the most damage. Stress hormones are released through our body, making our heart beat at a faster rate, (increase of blood pressure). Our breathing becomes rapid but shallow, also slowing our digestive system affecting our metabolism.
When someone is placed under long-term stress, their body is at a constant heightened state. This can be very harmful on many bodily systems including the immune system, cardiovascular system, endocrine system, reproductive system. It can also place a dramatic effect on our sleeping patterns.
There are 3 phases to someone’s stress response:
In the alarm phase, you may present with a small amount of muscle tension, altered breathing patterns and other related stress symptoms. You will unlikely be suffering from stress related pain throughout the body. This is actually the ‘healthy stage of stress response.’ One that the body is naturally reactive too and can manage through hormone release, regular stretching and exercise. At this stage, it is not essential for you to receive regular massage treatment – but it is a good idea to have maintenance treatment every 4-6 weeks to eliminate internal stresses from escalating to the following stages.
In the adaptation phase, the effects of stress are starting to build up in our body. Muscular tension has become sustained, and postural distortions have become apparent. Stress factors may arise from trauma, repetitive physical activities (sports, hobbies, occupation) or from structural differences within our body, eg: pelvic dysfunctions or leg length discrepancies. You may present with upper chest breathing difficulties and sleeping patterns may be disturbed.
When the above stresses are placed on our body – an increase of muscle tension is placed on the affected area causing reduced circulation, fatigue, pain spasms resulting in postural dysfunctions.
Regular massage helps to balance the nervous system whilst reducing muscular tension and lengthening contracted muscles. During the ‘Adaptation Phase’ you should be seeking regular treatment on a weekly – fortnightly basis so your body can get back to its normal function. Yoga and Pilates is also a great way to strengthen and stabilize the body whilst under these stresses.
Below is a diagram outlining the stages during the Adaptation Phase.
Moving from the Adaptation Phase to the Exhaustion phase can transition in the matter of weeks if untreated. Regular headaches and other medical conditions may have arisen. You will be suffering from chronic muscle tension and your pain patterns will start referring to other body parts. Your body will lay down collagen fibers, forming fibrous tissues on the already hypertonic muscle tissue, which cause myofascial trigger points. This makes tight muscles – even tighter, resulting with decrease in flexibility, reducing your bodies’ natural function and movement.
Weekly relaxation and remedial massage in conjunction with osteo treatment is recommended to help with your bodies’ muscular and joint dysfunction. Yoga and/or Pilates is also a crucial stage of the rehab process to redevelop and maintain your postural alignment that you have lost. It also helps with your emotional redevelopment engaging your breathing patterns through low impact exercise.
Below is a diagram outlining the stages of the Exhaustion/Chronic Phase.
The progression of tissue changes throughout these three stages all vary within each individual. Age, exercise, and nutritional status, are all contributing factors that will help with healthy muscle and connective tissue. It is important to have a well balanced diet, with regular stretching and exercise to keep your body aligned in its natural way.
Try to create a good work/life balance so you don’t find yourself in the ‘Adaptation or Exhaustion’ phase of stress.
‘Schedule in your next massage treatment today.’