Stress Related Conditions and How to Manage Stress

Stress Related Conditions and How to Manage Stress


With April being stress awareness month I wanted to highlight some of the common conditions we see in our practice that are negatively affected by high stress levels. Everyone has experienced stress at some point in their life and most deal with it on a daily basis from work, family, or social stressors. Healthy people know how to identify their stressors and have coping mechanisms to manage their stress. If ignored daily, stress can cause physical symptoms and be detrimental to optimal health.

We see a wide range of patients in our office with many different conditions. One of the questions I ask every patient is, “what aggravates your condition?” Stress is consistently an answer in several reoccurring conditions. The main health problem caused by stress, I see, is neck and upper shoulder pain. These patients often have muscle spasm and trigger points in cervical spine musculature and upper trapezius muscles. Headaches are another common condition associated with stress. Elevated stress levels raise blood pressure and heart rate, these can trigger headaches. Also the tight muscles from the cervical spine will actually pull on their attachment sites at the base of the skull, triggering sub-occipital headaches (at the base of the skull). Metabolically, consistently high stress levels will negatively affect cardiovascular health. As previously mentioned, stress will raise heart rate and blood pressure. If these become chronic every day occurrences, it increases the risk that patient will suffer some type of cardiac event i.e. heart attack or stroke. Stress will also adversely affect mental health. We have all experienced it. When we are under lots of stress we typically will become frustrated very quickly with family, friends, and co-workers. We will give short, sometime snippy or snide answers or remarks. It is not fun to be around someone who is constantly stressed to the max because how it makes them act.

Managing and coping with stress is essential to maintain optimal physical and mental health. Let’s discuss a few healthy and affective coping mechanisms. Mediation or silent thought for even just a few minutes each day has been found to be one of the most effective ways to manage stress. It allows the individual to get away for a few minutes from their stressors, reflect on the issues, and come up with a plan to solve their problems. Exercise and physical activity have also been shown to be highly effective in managing stress. Exercise releases endorphins (feel good chemical) in the brain that makes people feel uplifted and in a better mood. Regular exercise will also counteract the negative cardiovascular effects of stress, such as reducing blood pressure and weight gain. Exercise does not have to mean spending hours in the gym each day. Some people find stress relief from working in the garden, doing yard work, walking outside, or just playing with their kids. Other stress relievers can include listening to music, keeping a journal or diary, or just talking with a friend or family member. Find what helps you relax and handle your stress and make a part of your daily routine to keep maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Find a list of supplements that help manage stress here.