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Home / Blog / Chronic Stress – The “Fight-or-flight” Response

Chronic Stress – The “Fight-or-flight” Response

We live increasingly fast paced lifestyles thanks to seemingly unending workloads, studying pressures, multiple commitments, and technology dependency. What implications does this have for the individual? As a Doctor of Chiropractic taking care of patients of all ages and walks of life, I am seeing many of them present with overstimulated nervous systems. In other words, they walk in with “stress” at a deeper level.

What is “stress”? Stress is not just about something that is placed upon you; it is about how you consciously and unconsciously respond to a situation or perceived threat. Imagine you are strolling in the trails when you encounter a potentially dangerous snake. Besides consciously trying to avoid it, far more responses take place unconsciously deep within your body in terms of rapid physiological changes. The “fight-or-flight” response kicks in: faster heart rate, rapid shallow breaths, dilated pupils, increased oxygen to the brain, as well as release of glucose and cortisol (“stress hormone”) into the bloodstream. In the short term against a real sudden threat, this response can be a vital survival mechanism.

However, this “fight-or-flight” response is not helpful in the longer term. Take away the snake, instead replacing it with day-to-day physical, chemical, and emotional stressors, and you get a state of chronic stress. More adult and even young child patients are walking in with chronic stress by the time of their first visit. Overstimulated systems may manifest in issues like attention deficits, anxiety, depression, low immunity, digestive issues, and fatigue. Often, I can also detect a general lack of “ease” among these individuals. Are we just covering up or ignoring those signs and symptoms, without looking into the root cause of them?

There are ways we can seek to counter chronic stress such as breathing techniques, good posture, sharing about emotional stresses with loved ones, and less stimulation from electronic devices (see https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/american-academy-of-pediatrics-announces-new-recommendations-for-childrens-media-use.aspx on recommendations for children’s media use). However, as a chiropractor I am more focused on how I can tone down nervous system tension.

Dr. D.D. Palmer, the founder of chiropractic in 1895, said that “life is the expression of tone”. When we check and adjust patients for vertebral subluxations (spinal misalignments that cause nervous system interference), the outcome is frequently a more balanced tone at a deeper level. Instead of the sympathetic nervous system (“fight-or-flight”) being in overdrive, the parasympathetic nervous system (“rest and digest”) gets more engaged. From the following transformations of my patients, you can tell that chiropractic is so much more than just musculoskeletal aches and pains:

  • Patient with depression and daily anxiety attacks → “more motivation & optimism to take on each day”, along with resolution of anxiety attacks
  • Young patient with Asperger syndrome and generalized anxiety disorder → “calmer, more centered… more contented outlook of life”
  • Older patient with chronic poor appetite and nausea associated with eating → significantly improved appetite and can feel hungry again (a “fight-or-flight” state redirects limited resources away from vital digestive organs to large muscle groups)
  • Patient with chronic fatigue due to poor quality sleep up to 5 hours nightly → ability to sleep up to 10 hours continuously with good quality
  • Teenage patient looking withdrawn and disengaged → smiling and looking self-connected even after first adjustments
  • Patient holding emotional stress in sternum (chest bone) subconsciously → release of emotions that were vital for overall recovery, along with deeper breaths

The advantage of the Koren Specific Technique that we use in our chiropractic clinic is that it can detect deep stresses in the individual, even stresses the patient was never aware about. Specific adjustments of bony misalignments (even in the skull bones) are done via the gentle Arthrostim instrument. To be clear, Doctors of Chiropractic do not “treat” any conditions, such as depression or anxiety. We merely correct the vertebral subluxations, then step back to allow the individual’s body to self-heal via a more balanced nervous system.

Call us at 63367714 to schedule your spine check.

In health,
Dr. Ashley Liew

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