Yes! Spring coming. We all feel it. There is energy and excitement in the air. After a long, hard school year, everyone will be ready for summer. The beautiful weather has everyone feeling lively and cheerful. It is also a natural time to look inward; to make positive changes and heal old patterns. We may need to work harder to stay in shape, set new goals, and make positive changes. Our sales quotas are higher this year. The students stress over finals. Are you ready? On your mark… Get set… GO! If we’re not paying attention, we can very easily get caught up in that same old place called STRESS.
Here’s an idea. Let’s not go there. Let’s do things differently this year.
As a holistic doctor, I can help you make those positive changes. I like to keep things very SIMPLE and to understand WHY something does what it does so I can know WHAT the best answer is.
Here is your introduction to “Stressed-out Neurology 101”.
The human body is amazing! The nervous system is a vast network running an incredibly intricate course; connecting every cell in our entire body. It sounds complicated, but it is really very SIMPLE. It is divided into distinct sets of nerves that have separate and opposite functions.
The main divisions are the SOMATIC system; controlling mostly the voluntary actions of our muscles; and the AUTONOMIC system; controlling all of our unconscious or involuntary actions such as our heart rate, chemical production, immunity and digestion… every life sustaining function in our bodies that we are unaware of. The Autonomic system is divided further into the SYMPATHETIC and the PARASYMPATHETIC systems. The balance (or lack of balance) of these 2 systems is what makes us feel either “all stressed out” and run down or “chilled” and enjoying a sense of well-being.
The Sympathetic nerves exit the spinal column in the “mid-back” or thoracic vertebrae. These are responsible for the primitive “fight or flight” response. When your body senses a threat (such as a saber-toothed tiger running after you) it elicits a whole series of reactions to protect itself: blood vessels to the extremities (arms, legs, etc…) dilate which increase blood flow and heart rate, blood vessels to the digestive system constrict (no need to waste energy digesting food while where running from a tiger!), adrenalin levels increase, energy storages are broken down, inflammatory chemicals are produced which tighten our muscles, etc… We are in a fighting mode, not a healing mode. This is a very real reason why our mid-back and shoulders are tense and sore after a long, stressful day. Many muscles in the shoulder region extend up into the neck causing nerve interference and reduced blood flow to the brain when they become constricted. This can lead to that nagging headache and disorientation when we’re stressed. And you thought it was all in your head!
Long-term over-stimulation of the Sympathetic system through chronic stress can cause your body to burn out; leading to such conditions as ADD/ADHD, chronic fatigue, fiber myalgia, autoimmune diseases, depression, and inflammatory arthritis. This also causes a heightened pain response in the body. Truly, all disease processes begin due to an imbalance of the nervous system.
The Parasympathetic nerves exit the spinal column in the neck (cervical vertebrae) and in the lumbar and pelvic regions. These nerves have an opposite effect from the Sympathetic system: to heal and calm the body. Vital processes such as immunity, digestion, normal cardiac rhythm, cellular regeneration, and muscle coordination are orchestrated by the parasympathetic system. These nerves are also responsible for the production and balance of ALL of our neurotransmitters (such as serotonin, dopamine, the catecholamines, adrenalin, etc.). The imbalance of which causes such challenges as anxiety, depression, and ADD/ADHD.
So… here’s the SIMPLE answer to managing stress and to enjoying long-term mental and emotional well being: create a harmonious relationship between these two systems. EASY!!!
OK… so HOW do we do that? A holistic approach is to recognize ALL parts of our beings: Structure, Energy, Biochemistry, and Spirit. An imbalanced structure will cause irritation and interference in the nervous system. This is caused by genetics structure, imbalanced repetitive motion or trauma. One of the most traumatic events in our lives is the birth process! Compression to the skull (cranium) and upper cervical spine (neck) causes pressure on the brain stem and many imbalances within the nervous system. Gentle Chiropractic adjustments combined with Craniosacral therapy is very effective in removing these interferences and stimulating our healing response.
Of course, let’s never forget the SIMPLE basics of breathing, resting, and eating wholesome food. Nutritional supplements such as certain amino acids (building blocks of our neuro-chemicals) and the essential fatty acids can provide natural remedies to many inflammatory and emotional conditions.