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Stress can manifest itself in a physical way. Think about the last time you were stressed; did you shrug your shoulders? Did you tense up your calf muscles? Did you tighten your gluteal muscles? These are examples of how our body expresses stress in a physical way.


Why do our bodies do this? It is a protective mechanism we inherited
from our ancestors. When our body is stressed it fears that physical injury is imminent. Back in the day when our ancestors would see a raging tiger, the stress reflex prepared us for possible injury by tensing up muscles. Unfortunately a 1% battery on your iPhone, a bad day at work, an argumentative work colleague and an
overdue bill can all cause the same stress reflex to occur.


These stress reactions can cause pain over time. Increased tension in our muscles can cause muscle pain and nerve pain. A good example of this is carpal tunnel syndrome. Stress can cause some people to flex their wrists, especially during the night while sleeping. Over time this can cause certain forearm muscles to tense up, compressing the median nerve. This can cause numbness, tingling and burning into the wrist and hand. To take this example further, the patient could end up receiving surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome to help decompress the median nerve. A few years later they could be susceptible to the exact same problem occurring again due to the stress in their lives and the same sleeping habits.

Not only can stress cause pain but it also depletes our body’s energy reserves. The body utilizes a lot of energy to express physical signs of stress. This is part of the reason why some patients can feel fatigued at the end of a hard day at work. This leads to more inactivity, which further increases our muscle stress.

This is why managing stress is extremely important. A study in the March 19th issue of Physiological Science found that people who held onto stress and had negative feelings about a stressful day after it happened had more chronic health problems a decade later.

I would recommend to take the next few weeks and determine what are the top three sources of stress in your life. If you would like to share your sources of stress anonymously email us at clinic@muscleandjoint.ca, subject: Dr Malik’s Amazing Stress Article. That subject line will help decrease my stress 🙂

Next time we will examine some simple stress management techniques.

Wishing you the best of health!

Dr Malik

 

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