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.

What’s wrong with my knee?

Knee injuries are very common during sport and at work. For a faster recovery see your Dr or Physio to understand what structure you have damaged and how to rehab the injury effectively.

A knee sprain managed correctly will allow the tissue to heal fast and strong. Getting you back into what you enjoy most.

The knee is one of the most common joints injured in the body. A joint that absorbs a huge amount of force when running, jumping and lifting. Fortunately the femur and tibia are surrounded by many structures, but it’s usually these supporting structures that take the stress when we have an injury.

What could I have damaged?

Ligaments: About 40% of injuries to the knee involve ligaments either by a sprain or tear. These structures help give extra stability to the knee. When it has been put under excessive tension it damages the fibers. This results in pain, swelling and instability.Ligament injury knee

Patellofemoral: 24% of injuries are involving the knee cap. The patella sits within a small channel and if not guided correctly from surrounding muscles and ligaments pain can develop. This becomes particularly sore when squating, running and even basic functions like climbing stairs and sitting.Patella dysfunction

Meniscus:  11% involve the meniscus. It is fibrocartilage that sits within the knee, providing a level of stability to the ligaments and an element of shock absorption when weight bearing. This can cause a lot of swelling, pain and restrictions. In some cases the knee may lock in certain positions.

Knee injury meniscus

Other Injuries: The remaining 25% consists of fractures to knee, dislocation of the patella, Iliotibial band syndrome, hamstring and quads strains/tears etc.

What to do if I’ve injured my knee?

Firstly if you’ve just injured your knee and struggling with weight-bearing seek medical attention, where a Dr may consider an Xray, prescribe medication and will likely refer you to a physiotherapist. If the symptoms are not too severe, but you’re still concerned, come straight to physio. At Fundamental Physio Newmarket I can provide you with the following:

  • A detailed assessment of your knee using a range of tests to identify the structures involved, also looking at the mechanics of the hip and ankle.
  • Manual therapy to encourage normal movement and faster rate of healing.
  • A personalised exercise program for your identified weakness’. This may involve strength exercises, stretches and balance exercises.
  • Biomechanical assessment and correcting movement dysfunctions that may delay your recovery.
  • Providing you with an understanding of the structures affected and a treatment plan to meet your overall goals.
  • If recovery is slower than expected referrals can be made for Xrays/scans to sports or orthopaedic specialist.

Fundamental Physio Newmarket is supported by ACC. If you have hurt the knee during an accident, whether it was at home, work or on the sports field you will receive treatment cover for the injury.

For an appointment, call on 095290990 

Improving press position

The final part to the 4 shoulder positions that give us stability. The press position is used in so many ways, failing to find a good press shape can produce poor results and pose a risk to injury.

This is the final part of the 4 shoulder shapes we should all be able to achieve. Creating these shapes provides more efficient transitions when under load, making it easier and posing less risk to the shoulder.

So we’ve opened up the over head, front rack and hang shape. The last position is a press. Think of so many positions, bench press, rowing, burpee, chest to bar pull up, muscle up, ring dip….. If we create a poor, unstable position from this point it will make the movement much more difficult.

With the press we need to achieve full shoulder extension without the elbows flaring. Rarely do we get full extension in the shoulder. Even when sat at a desk typing were put in a perfect opportunity to hold the press position, but we get too flexed through the spine and the keyboard is placed to far away.

The other movement is internal rotation, which was part of our hang position. Good internal rotation at the shoulder will stop the elbows from flaring.

The last part being the lack of mobility of our lower cervical and upper thoracic spine. Which when stiff takes us into a rounded shoulder position. Trying to mobilise this area will help improve shoulder and head position.

Below are a series of mobility exercises to help with these directions.


Barbell hold – With the bar racked up to shoulder level and secure in the rack. Reach back with both hands, hold onto the bar and gentle lean forwards till you feel a stretch in the front of the chest and shoulders. Hold for 2 minutes. Gradually work your hands closer together.

Peanut lower cervical – This one you’ll have to get hold of a peanut (two lacrosse balls stuck together). Place the peanut at the base of the neck. Lift the hips to the ceiling. Some gentle rocking or arm movements through flexion or behind the back will help mobilise this point. 2 minutes

Lats smash with LaX ball – Take the ball under the arm pit into the meaty portion at the back, which is your lats. Roll into the lats with the arm in over head position lying on your side. 2 minutes.

Band hold – The other alternative to the bar hold is a band hold. Same position but hold the band behind you. Hold the stretch for 2 minutes.