Coping with Stress – Part 1

We all suffer with stress and it’s becoming a growing problem where people struggle to cope and burnout. Stress impacts my patients on a number of levels, mainly with pain perception. When under control we have better recoveries from injury.

The Greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.

Everyone can recognise stress in their daily life. Some people seem to have more stress than others, or is it simply their reaction to events that creates stress? What is stress? And why is a physio talking about stress?

What is stress?

Fight or flight is stress at its very basic. It’s an important mechanism our brain has to cope and be ready for any perceived threat. This causes many bodily changes to prepare us for action, such as increased neural activity, muscle tone, heart rate, breathing pattern disrupted sleep etc. But stress is also emotional and responds with the same physical response. There are two forms of stress positive and negative. It helps to have a balance of both to make logical decisions.

Positive: It can motivate us into action and achieve our goals.

Negative: Too much causes anxiety and other health issues.

There are many forms of emotional stress. Everyone manages stress differently, making it easier for some people to cope with than others. Below are the leading causes of negative stress.

  • Workplace environment, too many emails, phone calls, long hours
  • Divorce/breakups/relationship difficulties
  • Demands of family/children (sleep patterns, household duties, balancing activities)
  • Car accidents. Being stuck in traffic
  • Theft, burglary, loss of personal property
  • Loss of employment or business
  • Death of a family member or close friend
  • Cash flow problems
  • Poor academic performance/work overload

How can stress impact my injury?

When we’re injured we have the mechanical pain from the damaged structures. But carrying negative stress causes increased sensitivity of our pain receptors and decreases the inhibitory interneurones in the central nervous system that regulate how much pain we feel (1,2). If we find ways to channel our stress better the pains we feel from injury become more tolerable.

  1. Donello et al, (2011) A peripheral adrenoceptor-mediated sympathetic mechanism can transform stress-induced analgesia into hyperalgesia.
  2. Corcoran et al, (2015) The Role of the Brain’s Endocannabinoid System in Pain and Its Modulation by Stress.

Author: Graeme Lawson

With more than 13 years working both in the UK and New Zealand, Graeme offers a vast amount of experience and knowledge when treating musculoskeletal conditions. Being part of various clubs on the grass roots level to international with the England Volleyball team he has developed a broad skill set. His patient’s see exceptional results from a progressive blend of hands on manual therapy, education and exercise prescription. Catering from the home and work related injuries to athletes from novice to elite levels. Graeme’s outlook is the same with all who visit, that prevention is better than the cure. While providing a variety of hands-on treatments, he knows how important it is to offer education, preventative advice and tailored exercises to continue long after you have been discharged, helping avoid injuries in the future. For pastimes he has played basketball over the last couple of decades at different national levels. Graeme has also been doing CrossFit for 6 years. Having both the knowledge and ability of these technical movements provides athletes confidence with the advice they receive.

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