Back Pain

Stress: Physical Symptoms and Solutions

Stress. Six little letters is all it takes to make a word so full of meaning that few of us really know how to get to the bottom of it. Stress: is it that feeling you get when a deadline is looming, or is it what we feel when the chicken roast burns, the movie didn’t record, or we forgot to pick our mother-in-law up from the airport? Possibly, but could it be that it’s more than that? What if you haven’t been able to pay your mortgage for a few months, if a family member has been diagnosed with an illness, or if you simply can’t keep up with the pace at work? What if you don’t know how to cope anymore? Stress is all this and, perhaps, a whole lot more. In this blog, we’re talking about all things stress-related: what it is, what it can be, how it ultimately affects not only your mental health, but your physical health as well, and, finally, what you can do about it. Keep reading, because even if you think you don’t have stress, that ache in your lower back might very well be saying something completely different.  

Stress takes a toll on us emotionally; it can lead to depression, anxiety disorders, mood-swings, and various other psychological troubles if left untreated. In fact, the emotional effects of stress are so vast that they need an entire blog post of their own. For that reason, this month’s post will focus on the physical effects of stress rather than its mental counterpart.

For the most part, people assume that stress is relegated to the mind: a large amount of stress results in mental strain. Of course, this is true. But the effects of stress are even further reaching than that. Demanding, prolonged, adverse situations cause individuals to experience stress, that is, strain placed on the mind, heart, and body. As the mind becomes increasingly agitated and anxious, the body responds in like. Muscles begin to tense up, posture suffers, sleep is hard to come by, and the overall function of the body declines. 

It’s important to note that a knee-injury, for example, doesn’t mean you’re necessarily stressed. Nor does backache or headaches. In fact, stress is notorious for affecting a vast majority of areas around your body, rather than one single one. In other words, stress causes a cumulative worsening of symptoms throughout the entire body. Suffering from stress may cause a few, or all, of the following:

  • Back tension.
  • Headaches/Neck pain.
  • Jaw pain.
  • Insomnia. 
  • Back pain from tossing/turning.
  • Slouching from fatigue. 

Of course, as one experiences fatigue, so too the stress mounts, thereby worsening the intensity of an already vicious circle. It is not an understatement to say that “stress kills”, as a prolonged period of stress can lead not only to a mental breakdown, but to the deterioration of one’s physical body, so much so that mobility and comfort may be lost. Once again, this will further increase stress. 

It’s obvious, then, that recognizing the ways in which stress is entering your life and manifesting in your body is absolutely imperative. If stressed is picked-up on early, then the effects can be safely and permanently mitigated: this will ensure that you remain mobile, pain-free, and a lot happier than if you were living with that stress on a daily basis. A stress-free life is interconnected with health, mental peace, and a pain-free life. De-stressing is perhaps the most important thing you can do, right now.

So, stress is dangerous, yes, but it is possible to cope with it in healthy, sustainable ways. It’s not only possible, though, it’s an absolute necessity. Allowing stress to build is perhaps one of the leading causes of serious injury, both mentally and physically. We really don’t want you to get to that point. So, why not try the following activities in order to cope with any possible stress you’re under:

Breathing Techniques

Readjusting your breathing in order to allow more oxygen to enter your bloodstream is vital in balancing out the stress in your life. By practicing tried-and-tested breathing techniques, stress will not be given the opportunity to wreak havoc on either your physical or mental self.

Essential Oils

There’s one very good reason essential oils have been around for thousands of years… they work! Some essential oils are able to induce relaxation, and thus using them in your bath, in lotions, in diffusers, or even just as something to sniff on occasion, is a really useful way of inviting a sense of calm into your life. Remember, as the mind unwinds, so too your body will be open to healing. 

Heat/Ice

The physical effects of stress need to be tackled, too. As stress builds, so too the body may shut down. Remember, therefore, to pay attention to areas of the body that feel less mobile or painful than before. Apply heat or ice to these areas in order to alleviate the discomfort. Thereafter, seek proper treatment from a physical therapist. 

Physical Therapy

Prolonged periods of stress can oftentimes cause physical pain.  Backache, headaches, and neck pain should never be ignored: visit a hands-on physical therapist for the best, safest, most effective way of both treating the physical pain and for tips on how to prevent its resurgence. A physical therapist will not only diagnose the root-cause of the problem and eradicate the pain, but will give you tailor-made exercises so that you can continue your pain-free life outside of the clinic. Once you treat the pain, the mental healing can begin.

At the end of the day, stress is truly detrimental to one’s heath, physical well-being, and state of mind. It can rob us of our joy, hobbies, family-time, and active lifestyles. Listen to your body and make time to de-stress. Knowing if you’re stressed it absolutely essential in staving off physical pain and mental anguish. If you’re unsure why you’re in pain, you’re worried about your physical health, or you just need some advice about stress-related injuries, then we invite you to contact us, today. No one should live with stress or stress-related pain: let us help you, right now.

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Improving Posture with Daily Habits

Have you ever wondered why your neck always hurts? What about why there is that nagging discomfort in your upper and lower back? How about the nagging pain in your shoulders, hips, or even feet? Well, all of those aches and pains could be down to one very important aspect of your life: your posture. Yes, that’s right. For those of you who have never considered your posture important, or who haven’t really given the way you sit, stand, or walk much thought, we’re giving you some advice: it’s time to take notice. Your posture affects almost everything about your body, from muscle health through to bone structure and overall mobility. It’s no wonder, then, that today’s blog is all about posture. So, get ready, sit up straight, and start diving into why your posture matters. 

Having a good posture is important for more than self-confidence. Sure, it’s great to enter a room like Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing, but walking balanced and upright means a lot more. For one thing, a good posture directly affects the health and suppleness of our muscles. Practicing good posture ensures that our muscles remain strong and mobile, thereby allowing them to offer much-needed support to our skeletal structure.  Back, neck, and hip pain is often result of uneven, unbalanced posture. Why? Because the muscles in those areas are not strong, supple, or mobile enough to step-up to the plate. They can only function correctly if good posture is enforced. 

We can picture you adjusting yourself in your seat, now. And that’s good! Far too many of us forget that the small, daily habits we have actually effect our posture the most. From sitting incorrectly in a desk chair, through to carrying uneven amounts of weight and overcompensating on one side when driving, we’re all guilty of practicing bad posture throughout the day. The good news is, though, we now know there is room for improvement! 

First things first, though: how do we know if our posture is off? Well, the key to knowing if your posture isn’t quite right is to listen to your body. Pay close attention to the little things you do. For example, do you always carry your bag on one side of your body and then lead away from the weight in order to balance? If so, you’re practicing incorrect posture: your spine curves unnaturally in order to accommodate the uneven weight. Another example is this: when you drive, do you lean your elbow into the driver’s door? If so, your spine is once again curving unnaturally. How about when you walk? Do you lean very far forward or do you tend to curve your lower back/coccyx out? If so, your walk is off and your incorrect posture could cause back pain down the road. All three of these examples are just a tiny few compared to the various ways in which incorrect posture can rear its ugly head in your daily activities. For this reason, it’s extremely important to be aware and to get the right advice immediately.   

Always remind yourself of your posture and, where applicable, aim to improve it. For example, you could start sleeping with a pillow between your legs so as to align your spine. You could also start sitting upright in your chair at work, lift the height of your computer monitor, and refrain from using laptops where possible. Remember to get up regularly and go for a walk, too! Furthermore, when you’re standing, make sure you’re upright with your spine aligned. Ensure that your shoulders aren’t hunched and that your weight is spread evenly across your legs. The same advice is true for when you walk: distribute weight evenly and ensure that your spine is always supported. Be sure to wear appropriate footwear, too, as your shoes can directly affect your posture and, therefore, your health. 

Having said all that, we also know that it can be tricky to self-diagnose potential posture issues. Oftentimes, habits are formed over years and years, and that’s exactly why breaking them, or even recognizing their damaging effects, can be very difficult. However, if you’re serious about tackling your posture – whether to ensure prolonged health and a pain free life, or to eradicate existing pain – it’s imperative that you see a physical therapist. Professional, hands-on physical therapy is the safest, most effective way of tackling posture-related issues. Not only will a physical therapist diagnose and treat the root cause of the problem, thereby eradicating the pain, but he/she will also give you tailor-made exercises and invaluable advice in order to equip you with the tools to maintain a pain-free life filled with great posture!  

At the end of the day, just as a lifetime of bad habits can lead to injury, so too can the practice of correct, targeted habits improve your posture and thereby undo the damage. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the improvement of your posture doesn’t hinge on a large, extreme gesture: it takes the accumulative effects of daily, conscious changes to alter bad posture. Listen to your body and make the changes needed to move forward into a pain-free, long, mobile life. 

We understand that bad posture has the potential to hinder mobility and active lifestyles. We also know that it may well lead to serious injury or prolonged suffering… and we really don’t want that for you. If you’re not sure whether you have bad posture and you just want some answers in order to avoid negative repercussions, or whether you’re suffering from pain related to bad posture, then we invite you to contact one of our friendly, knowledgeable physical therapists today. Make the change needed to create positive habits that will last a lifetime. Good posture paves the way for a healthful, pain-free life, and we cannot wait to give you the foundation you need to start implementing them correctly and safely. Call us today – we look forward to hearing from you!

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