How has Covid-19 affected your back?
It goes without saying that 2020 has come with its different challenges for many different people. Most of us have experienced a drastic change of lifestyle – working from home, losing out on social interaction, along with threats of financial instability.
There are changes that put more obvious physical stresses on our spine, such as a change in posture, as a result of sitting at a dining room table when working from home. However, other Covid-19 related issues can cause mental stress.
Stress is a complex in-built mechanism that occurs when our brain thinks the body may be in danger and needs to react quickly - you have probably heard of the ‘fight or flight’ response. This response prepares our bodies to be able to act fast against a threat.
In order to prepare our bodies to do this there are several physical changes;
Our heart rate and blood pressure elevate to get the blood to flow faster around the body.
The blood gets redirected away from the less important organs at this time (e.g. digestive system) to our muscles to get them “pumped” and prepare them for action.
Energy sources get released to the muscles, so they are ready to fire.
Our brain starts noticing more signals coming from our muscles – we become hyper-aware. For example, when people report the feeling of “time slowing down” when they are involved in an accident (a highly stressful time for the body).
It has been explained by scientists why there is a link between stress and muscle tension, as your muscles are constantly being ready to sprint. Even when you are sitting on the sofa trying to rest, your muscles may be prepping for action, hence this can lead to long-term tension and even persistent pain.
If you find that when you have had a massage the tension comes back quickly, this can be due to your stress response firing the muscles up again when your mind becomes threatened again. The body’s nervous system becoming more aware to every signal coming from a site of injury can explain why “niggling” muscles can become more painful. Therefore, these physical responses to financial or health threats, that many of us are currently facing, can be contributing to your pain.
OUR SIX TOP TIPS to decrease stress related pain: 1. Get active – walking/running/cycling is a great way to re-direct our focus. 2. Breathing techniques – when the body is in a state of relaxation, breathing calms and so does your nervous system. It works both ways, if you calm the breathing down it will put your body into a state of relaxation. 3. Mindfulness – allows time for you to be in a relaxed state with your thoughts (there are some great apps that talk you through this process). 4. Yoga/tai chi – brings together the benefits of the breathing techniques and being active.
5. Manual Therapies – such as massage to reduce muscle tension, chiropractic to increase joint flexibility and acupuncture to promote relaxation. 6. Education – understanding how your pain is working has been shown to give relief in itself.
If you would like to discuss how stress may be contributing to your pain, please talk to our chiropractor Olivia who has a special interest in persistent pain.