Stress and anxiety - improve healing and reduce pain

Did you know that being mentally ‘stressed’ has an impact both on your experience of pain and your capacity to heal from an injury?

You might remember school biology lessons and the ‘fight or flight’ response we all have  when we encounter a threatening or stressful experience. This is an evolutionary chemical reponse in your body – to improve your chances of survival – where resources are diverted to essential systems such as your senses, hearing, heart, lungs and muscles, giving you the ability to either fight or flee depending on the circumstances.

However, we have not evolved much physically in the brief time we have been on earth, so our chemical processes don’t know that the reason we are now stressed is because of a deadline at work or a relationship break-up. We just go through the same experience as being faced with a life-threatening situation and because we rarely fight or run away at work, the chemicals in our system aren’t broken down by immediate physical activity, so the process doesn’t switch off quickly the way it is supposed to.

A prolonged fight or flight response increases all nervous system activity, including pain signals (like turning up the volume on a radio). Combine that with the effects of increased muscle tension and a minor pain condition can cause major levels of pain, if you are stressed or anxious.

A prolonged response also shuts down all non-essential systems, like digestion. So we don’t heal as quickly because we don’t absorb and break down the nutrients from our food the way we should.

So to reduce pain and improve your healing capacity, we must take practical steps to manage the physical responses of stress (if those things triggering stress can’t be eliminated). Here are some of our practical tips to help:

  • Sleep – improved sleep quality and quantity helps to reduce stress hormones. Our recent blog post with tips for improving sleep strategies can be read here.
  • Diet – this doesn’t mean going on a diet but it means improving the quality of your food. Poor food quality can be stressful for your digestive system. Click here for ways to improve your nutrition and help with soft tissue healing.
  • Exercise – there is extensive research that suggests that exercise will reduce the chronic stress hormones your body produces. Exercise also helps to improve your sleep and mood. Click here for a free 7-day trial of our online Pilates.
  • Remedial massage – a deep tissue massage will help lower your blood pressure, your heart rate and stress hormone levels. Please contact us for further information if you are local, our experienced remedial massage therapists will be able to look after you.
  • Meditation and mindfulness

Don’t hesitate to contact us for any other advice,

The Pilatesfit Team

Call us on 01223 914415 to book a private class or book online for group classes.