The past few weeks have been a painfully stressful time for American citizens. Acute and chronic stress have shown to drastically decrease our overall health and ability to recover. Stress causes our muscles to tense, heart to race, and sympathetic system to work in overdrive. Though the news may cause us to stress and worry, it’s important to remember the influence it holds over our personal health and recovery.
Chronic stress has shown to increase risk of depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, upper respiratory infections, poor wound healing and now the common cold.1 Stress increases blockage of a hormone called Glucocorticoid. This hormone is responsible for regulating inflammatory response. If the body cannot receive a glucocorticoid response, the body will fail to down-regulate inflammation. Inflammation in the body will result in dysfunction of natural feedback mechanisms. This will increase our susceptibility to diseases and infections.
In Physical Therapy, stress is often assessed when developing a treatment plan. Stress hormones cause the muscle proteins to break apart, thereby decreasing overall muscle strength.2 The oxidative damage within a muscle will result in decreased quality and function.2 When a client is shown to undergo stress in a work or home environment, a physical therapist teaches them how to recognize those signs and symptoms. The next step is how to combat them. When the stressor is removed, studies show that it will lessen feelings of anxiety and depression, improve overall well-being, increase sensory-motor performance, and enhance hand grip endurance.2
If you fear that stress may be affecting your treatment, try these simple relaxation techniques.
- Talk with a trusted family member or friend
- Practice meditation and relaxation
- Allow yourself to expel worries through different forms of exercise
- Experiment with journaling
- Watch your favorite funny movies or T.V. shows
1. Cohen, Sheldon, et al. “Chronic Stress, Glucocorticoid Receptor Resistance, Inflammation, and Disease Risk.” PNAS, National Academy of Sciences, 17 Apr. 2012, www.pnas.org/content/109/16/5995.
2. Poornima, K N, et al. “Study of the Effect of Stress on Skeletal Muscle Function in Geriatrics.” Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research : JCDR, JCDR Research and Publications (P) Limited, Jan. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3939594/#b14.