My family suffered a terrible loss recently. It was tragic and out of the blue, and we still don’t know what caused it, which makes it worse for some reason. To say I am emotionally stressed is an understatement. And it goes right to my neck. Tight shoulder muscles. Neck pain. Headaches. Restless sleep. Couple that with traveling to see family and sleeping on a very hard bed…I was a mess after just a couple days. But why? Why does our body have a physical reaction to emotional stress? Dr. George Olar of 360 Chiropractic in Lacey explains why, and what you can do to relieve those physical symptoms so you can focus on healing emotionally.

360 chiropractic lacey adjustment
When your stressed, your body responds in way you may not realize, including tight muscle that can cause your joints to move out of alignment. A chiropractic adjustment can help. Photo courtesy: 360 Chiropractic

“Negative thoughts and negative emotions are processed in the brain the same as a physical threat,” explains Dr. George. “It goes to the same part of the brain. You get the same physiological response, which is an increase in inflammation, adrenaline, cortisol and histamines in the body.”

In other words, your body goes into fight or flight mode when it recognizes a threat to your wellbeing, and that includes emotional stress. That extra adrenaline is why you can’t get a good night’s sleep when something is weighing on your mind. The inflammation and histamines will cause aches and pains. Extra cortisol can even cause weight gain by making you feel hungry when you stay in a stressed state for long periods of time. I am a severe stress eater! Especially anything with sugar, which by the way, also causes inflammation so it will just make your situation worse!

This type of “stressed state” doesn’t have to be from a big emotional event, like the loss of a family member. Dr. George explains that just being alone can put you in a stressed, flight or fight state, because we are social creatures, meant to be with other humans. When we are alone, like we have been due to the pandemic, our inflammatory system increases. “The inflammatory markers go up because we are alone, not interacting socially, and, yes we feel more vulnerable when we are alone.” He says, then adds, laughing, “I know for me, I would rather have the boys at home being loud and making a mess, towers of Legos to avoid stepping on, then to have that complete isolation. I consider myself fortunate for that.”

“When we are socially isolated, we have higher inflammatory markers, this can lead to altered mood such as anger and frustration, decreased immune response, and even pain.” Dr. George adds. When your immune system is heightened, it can cause the good monocytes—warrior white blood cells—to start attacking your body’s healthy cells, creating inflammation and pain. Dr. George sites Dr. Steven Cole’s research, from UCLA, “What the Health Effects of Loneliness Say About Illness and Cell Activity” as a beneficial article to read specifically taking in to account the events of this past last year.

How to Ease Physical Pain from Emotional Stress

Emotional pain is hard enough to deal with, even without physical symptoms. 360 Chiropractic takes a holistic approach to your care, looking at everything that is going on in your body to help you get back to a parasympathetic (homeostasis or non-fight/flight response) state quickly. “The solution to increased emotional stress would be getting the nervous system turned back on to its parasympathetic mode so regeneration can continue to take place,” Dr. George shares.

Chiropractic Work

“Chiropractic care is a good place to start,” he continues. “By alleviating joints that are fixated (decreased range of motion), inflamed, and muscles that are taut, chiropractic adjustments help restore normal joint motion and they help relieve pressure that may be placed on the nerves (which exit from every level of the spine) from becoming entrapped by the fascia and surrounding connective tissue that is inflamed. This ensures that good nerve conduction can take place, thus allowing communication between the nervous system and the musculoskeletal system; restoring homeostasis.”


Everyone knows a good massage can help when we are stressed. “It helps turn on the parasympathetic system by stimulating the nerves and sensory receptors,” says Dr. George. “Helping the muscles to relax, fascia to unwind and pushing the toxins that have built up in the muscles out.” 360 Chiropractic has a professional massage therapist, Gloria Burkenbine, LMP, who specializes in Swedish, relaxation, deep tissue, sports, pregnancy and chronic migraines.

360 chiropractic lacey laser therapy
Laser Therapy can help easy physical pain you may be feeling due to emotional stress. Photo courtesy: 360 Chiropractic

Cold Laser Therapy

Cold laser is becoming more and more popular as people learn the incredible effects it can have on chronic pain and inflammation. It can help get the body back to its parasympathetic mode, while repairing tissue, reducing pain and inhibiting inflammation. “Cold Laser treatment promotes the body’s innate healing, which may have been impeded through tissue damage, emotional stress, or injury by stimulating mitochondria and encouraging the cells to produce more ATP,” explains Dr. George. “Mitochondria is the power plant of the cell, or rather the engine of the cell, because it produces ATP, which is about 90% of the energy that a cell uses. Thus, tissue, organs and the body as a whole need it to function.”

Dr. George and Dr. Stefanie Olar can suggest other homeopathic remedies you can use to help reduce the physical symptoms caused by emotional stress. For example, exercise, like yoga, and expressive writing are two things that can help clear your mind.

What was the first thing I did when I got home from my family gathering? Called 360 Chiropractic for an appointment. It made all the difference in the pain department so I had one less thing to worry about (because stress causes pain and then you worry about the pain, causing more stress – vicious cycle!). Stop the cycle and stop living in pain. Contact 360 Chiropractic today and let their team come up with a care plan that fits your body. Visit the 360 Chiropractic website or call 360.923.0360 to schedule an appointment.


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