This year’s flu season has been a rough one so far. With nearly twice the number of annual flu cases, and the unfortunate passing away of 30 children in the US, this year’s H3N2 strain is proving to be particularly deadly. And to make matters worse, the flu vaccine is estimated to be only 10% effective, making the elderly and the young to be particularly vulnerable this year .
As a Chiropractor, I usually see the late stages of the flu in patients. Most of the complaints I see are back and chest pain, from sore muscles due to repetitive coughing and sneezing. Occasionally we will see a subluxated rib, making breathing painful when inhaling.
Patients are also usually fatigued from the flu. The exhaustion is understandable. Most people are tense and stressed to begin with. Our current lifestyle promotes weak muscle and less than optimal joint health. Our bodies lose the flexibility they once had. What makes this lack of flexibility and increased stress a problem is that studies show that this can cause a weakened immune system, which can lead to increased sickness.
When the body is under more stress, more energy is diverted to dealing with the stress, which usually causes more muscle tension. It takes considerable amount of energy for your body to ‘build up’ stress points. According to a meta-analysis study by Dr Herbert and Dr Cohen, chronic stress can cause a decrease in your immune system’s ability to fight off an infection. This means you are more susceptible to get sick if you are stressed. Some stressors can be psychological, others can be chemical; but the one I try to help with as a Chiropractor is physical stress.
You may have experienced this when a particular muscle knot becomes painful, most commonly found near the shoulders and neck. This stress can cause the body to stiffen up, making it difficult to move and perform your daily routine. This overall can weaken the immune response and make you more susceptible to infections.
By helping the tense muscles and stiff joints, we can help reduce the physical stress on the body. This in turn allows the body to focus more of its energy in helping boost the immune system. If the patient already has the flu, we can help alleviate muscle and joint soreness caused by increased coughing and sneezing, helping the body get back to normal quickly.
Reducing physical stress can help your body’s immune response and help you live healthier. Some ways to help reduce physical stress include daily exercises that promote flexibility. One great way to exercise is to use a foam roller, below is a link to the instructions we give patients at our clinic:
Rolling helps to break down adhesions, which allows the muscles to move and glide better. It takes only 5 – 7 minutes twice a day, and patients usually feel great afterwards.
Another good way to help reduce stress is by moderate exercise. Here is a list of some easy to do exercises around the house that do not require any special equipment
If despite these exercises you are still stiff or sore, or have muscle tension that won’t go away try the following:
And it goes without saying, reducing physical stress is only part of the solution. Eating well, getting a good night’s sleep and moderate exercise is crucial for your body to stay at its strongest, especially during flu season.