Total Health

Life stressors that contribute to poor spinal health

July 21st, 2021 by
Category: Dr. Jessie Naughton Nervous system Posture Spinal Health Stress

Yeppoon Chiropractor discussing x-ray results with female patient

In my previous blog post, I spoke about about how Chiropractic care may be able to help improve nervous system function, the importance of good spinal health and how subluxations can develop from day to day stressors. In today’s blog post, I thought I would dive a bit deeper into the concept of life stressors and how they contribute to poor spinal health.

But first, understanding the autonomic nervous system

There are two parts to your autonomic nervous system – the parasympathetic nervous system and sympathetic nervous system.

Parasympathetic Nervous System

The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for a large amount of the ‘happy, healthy’ events that occur in your body like digestion, immunity, reproduction, hormonal regulation, upbeat and happy moods and feelings of contentment.

Sympathetic Nervous System

The sympathetic nervous system controls the opposite to the parasympathetic nervous system –  increasing your heartbeat, dilating your pupils, sending blood to your limbs to activate your muscles, increasing breath rate, sweating.

We refer to the sympathetic nervous system as our ‘fight or flight’ system – what becomes active when our body is under stress. And we refer to our parasympathetic nervous system as the nice and calm component that allows us to rest and digest. We want to sit in this parasympathetic state the majority of the time, with our sympathetic nervous system only activated during periods of ‘good’ stress – i.e. exercising, getting out of a stressful situation or during a crisis. 

The three categories of stressors and what they look like in real life situations

Further to this, there are three categories of stressors that can activate the sympathetic nervous system – physical, chemical and emotional. When exposed to anything in our environment, the body will either perceive it as stressful or nourishing. For example: 

  • Physicalexercising is a good physical stressor, however sitting at a desk for hours on end or having a car accident is a poor physical stressor.
  • Chemicaleating nutritious food or using organic products for beauty and cleaning will not result in a stress response, but eating poor quality foods such as sugar, alcohol, gluten and dairy in some cases can contribute to a fight or flight response.
  • Emotionalhaving a conversation with a friend or family member about your emotions is a good emotional stressor that you should participate in, however experiencing a stressful or emotional event like bullying, losing a loved one or being involved in an accident is an emotional stressor that will again heighten your stress response. 

Some stressors in life are avoidable – choosing to stretch after exercise, eating nutritious foods over poor quality foods, setting up your workspace correctly instead of looking down/hunching over your computer screen or phone all day and speaking to friends, family and/or counsellors about your mental state instead of internalising your emotions. However, some life stressors are unavoidable – sports injuries, losing loved ones or having a car accident.

The body’s stress response

When it comes to your spinal health, if a stressor occurs, your body needs to respond. What typically happens in a stressful situation is our body pulls ourselves into a stressed posture – where your head sits forward, your shoulders round and your bottom sticks out with an extra large curve in your back. When this happens, your body’s stress is again ramped up because your body is telling your brain to run away from the stress or fight it off. This is when we can have symptoms such as brain fog, headaches, back pain, digestion upset, poor sleep, poor memory, more prone to injuries, poor mental state and so much more! This poor posture linked to stressors in your life may also lead to spinal diseases like arthritis which can be debilitating to live with.

Getting on top of the stressors in your life and trying to remove them as best as you can is incredibly beneficial for your overall health. There is so much more to your spinal health than just pain and my goal is to educate you as best as possible to ensure your whole life is as balanced, happy and healthy as possible. 


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