You must know the feeling when anxiety strikes, there is pressure in the chest and the breath does not flow. Stress and mental anxiety, like also other kinds of feelings are expressed in the body.
Especially the neck and shoulder area reacts to stress easily as well as the thoracic spine, namely a part of the spine that is located at the back of the thorax. In the area of the thoracic spine, there is a sympathetic nerve structure that activates when you are stressed out. Long term over activity of the sympathetic nervous system causes exhaustion of the transmitters, that leads to e.g. increased sensitivity to pain. The body’s own pain control and altering mechanism does not then switch off continuous signals of pain but instead they are sensed more thoroughly. Therefore, a person suffering from excessive stress also suffers from musculo-skeletal pain like back aches. Mostly people express reacting to mental stress with their back or alternatively stress can be felt in the shoulders. Long term stress can be seen in the system as a chronical neck and shoulder tension as well as straightening of the thoracic spine.
Physiology of Stress:
Autonomic nervous system regulates the functioning of our system both in crises situations as well as when resting.
A stress reaction activates the sympathetic side of the autonomic nervous system and rest activates the parasympathetic side. When you need to do something at work or when moving, the sympathetic nervous system activates, raises the heartbeat, extends the veins of the big muscles and expedites the hormonal secretion of the adrenal glands. As you relax or digest food, the parasympathetic nervous system is more active, the heart beat slows down and the blood circulation of the internal organs, especially the digestive track improves. As the body rests, namely in the parasympathetic state, then recovery from the activity takes place and the body can restore and renew itself.
Problems arise if the circumstances and action keeps up the activity of the sympathetic nervous system continuously and the restoration of the body through rest and relaxation does not happen. For instance, for athletes, overtraining is an over exhaustion caused by sympathetic stress.
Other typical stress symptoms in addition to the tension of the body are:
- insomnia and tiredness even if one can sleep
- restlessness of the mind, melancholy and worry
- digestive problems and gaining weight around the waist
- a tendency to catch colds and flues
- decreased libido
If you recognized on or all of the symptoms, your sympathetic nervous system may be overactive. Osteopathy can release the physical symptoms of stress. Healing the body can help to reduce experiencing stress, but in some cases it is worth healing stress and the consequent mental provocation. We co-operate with psychotherapists and stress therapists and can also give referrals if needed.