Stress and Adaptation

We live in stressful times, there is no doubt about it. But not all stress is negative. The stress response is a normal physiological response that allows us to adapt to the environment. There are many sources of stress that are detrimental to your health, including worries about health, work, family, relationships, and finances. You might feel stressed from being overworked, eating a poor diet, or inadequate sleep. You also feel stressed when your spine is subluxated or misaligned, which in turn irritates the nervous system.

When you perceive stress, there is an instinctive physical response, including activation of the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight”), causing your pituitary gland to secrete a hormone called ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone). ACTH then tells your adrenal glands to release the hormones adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream. These stress hormones increase your heart rate and blood pressure to move more blood to your muscles so that you can react quickly. So, what does all of that do? In short, it primes the pump, making you more aroused and focused, so that you are better able to respond physically and mentally to whatever is coming your way. The stress response is a good thing in that it gives you the energy you need for the situation. It can also enhance your immune capabilities, at least in the short term. As you go into “fight or flight” mode, your digestive function is shut down. The parasympathetic nervous system (“rest and digest”) is inhibited. Once the perceived threat is gone, cortisol and adrenaline levels decline, and other bodily functions return to a normal healing state.

We live in a world of constant stress: overwork, too much technology, toxins from food, too much sitting, and the list goes on. For many people, sympathetic dominance is ongoing, and they seldom reach the healing state of parasympathetic dominance. Problems occur when you stay in this sympathetic dominant state (“fight or flight”) for too long. Years of research find that prolonged stress can cause back pain, neck pain, headaches, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, insomnia, digestive disorders, decrease immune function, and many other health conditions.

How can you reduce the stress response?


There are many helpful strategies to help you minimize the negative effects of stress on your body. First, you need an optimally functioning nervous system. If your spine is subluxated, you will stay in a state of sympathetic dominance and your body will suffer from the negative effects of constant, chronic stress. Specific chiropractic care correct subluxations and spinal distortions, allowing your body to maintain a healthy state of parasympathetic dominance. Your body works best when parasympathetic dominance is your normal state, with brief periods of sympathetic dominance, to get you through the stressful times.

Solutions to help restore sympathetic/parasympathetic balance:

  • Adjustments are a powerful re-set to restore the balance from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system.

  • Exercise with an easy walk, even 10 minutes makes a big difference. Do the exercise you like for maximum benefit.

  • Deep breathing calms your body and tells it that all is well, there is no need for “fight or flight”.

  • Adequate sleep helps lower stress levels and balance the nervous system.

  • Healthy food, free of toxins and chemicals helps alleviate stress and sympathetic dominance.

  • Maintain heartfelt connections with family and friends with who you can confide in and are supportive.

  • ​​​​​​​Seek counseling If you feel you need help.

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