07 Aug Osteopathy for Stress Management
These past couple of years have been extremely stressful for many of us. Many patients do not realise that stress can affect them both mentally and physically. The nervous system, the cardiovascular system, and the musculoskeletal system, are all connected and work together to enable you to complete all of your daily functions. If something goes wrong with you, regardless of whether its physical, emotional, or mental, it will have a negative effect on the rest of your body. Fixing the problem is important for your overall health and well-being. Managing stress and it’s related health issues can be a complex task, with different methods suiting different people. As osteopaths, we not only treat your muscles and joints, but we can also help to alleviate symptoms associated with stress.
When experiencing stress, the body adopts a ‘fight or flight’ response. It is a natural response to real or perceived danger and stressful situations, regardless of whether the situation is internal or external (a physical threat). To prepare for the perceived danger, the body’s blood pressure and breathing rate increases, and blood gets redistributed to the most vital areas. The digestive system is affected due to less blood flow to the area and also because of the tightening of the sphincter muscles that line the gut. This can result in bloating, constipation and diarrhoea. A person’s posture can also be affected by this ‘fight or flight’ response. Patients suffering from stress tend to tighten and clench their neck, shoulder and back muscles, leading to potential tension headaches, muscular pain and fatigue.
Osteopathy takes a holistic approach to treating patients and therefore osteopaths are trained to assess your whole body. They will do a physical examination but they will also take into account lifestyle and stress factors that can affect your well-being. A consultation will consist of the osteopath taking a full case history and conducting an osteopathic examination to observe any physical imbalances or irregularities that may be contributing to your problematic area.
For stress-related ailments, an osteopath will pay particular attention to the muscles around the thoracic spine, where the sympathetic nervous system is located. This is the system that is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response to stressful situations. By palpating muscles in this region your osteopath can identify areas of tension or knots in the tissue that cause pain and limit your muscle mobility.
Osteopaths employ a number of techniques to treat the conditions caused by stress.
- stretching to relieve the tension in the muscle;
- articulation to improve the movement of the affected joints;
- soft tissue massage technique to release fluid build-up and relax the muscles; and
- a trust technique which is used to improve the range of movement and promote better blood flow to the affected areas.
One of the best ways to reduce stress levels is to practise deep breathing. Your osteopath will have a few tips for you and will encourage you to practise breathing exercises regularly at home. Breathing exercises are effective in lowering your heart rate and blood pressure, and can calm the emotions when stressed. You can do them anywhere, at any time.
At OsteoVision, our practitioners are trained to treat a wide range of conditions. Please contact us if you would like to discuss your symptoms, book an appointment, or require more information.
Lawton, S., 2020. Management of Stress – Rugby Osteopathic & Sports Injury Centre. [online] Rugbyosteopaths.co.uk. Available at: <https://www.rugbyosteopaths.co.uk/blog/2020/10/management-of-stress> [Accessed 19 February 2022].