Tag Archive for: decrease stress

How Stress Leads to Pain

How Stress Leads to Pain

How Stress Leads to Pain

People are dealing with more stress than ever right now and it’s impacting people in different ways. Many folks I speak with have been experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions — and their bodies are reflecting that. Keep reading to learn how stress leads to pain.

Stress impacts everything from your gut, to your immune system, to your mental health, to your musculoskeletal system.

When it comes to musculoskeletal pain – common areas in your body that easily get impacted include your shoulders, jaw, head, and lower back.

Stress is your human response to physical, emotional, or mental changes in your body or living environment.

According to internal medicine physician Richard Lang, MD, PhD from the Cleveland Clinic: “Stress doesn’t necessarily cause certain conditions, but it can make the symptoms of those conditions worse.” It’s easy to fall into a vicious cycle. Your physical symptoms worsen. Your stress increases – and so on and so on. 

We know without a doubt that stress impacts our bodies – but exactly how or why this happens is an interesting phenomenon that is still being researched.

But for now – here are some of the working theories on how stress leads to physical pain.

Social conditioning 

Many of us are taught from a young age that expressing emotions, particularly negative emotions, is “bad” or “unacceptable.” The result is that you may have learned to hold stress inside your body when faced with a stressful situation. Researchers who study this believe that the muscle tension we develop is the result of “unspoken social beliefs” that we adopted as children in order to feel accepted or liked. This pattern carries into adulthood and becomes embedded into our subconscious systems, i.e. our nervous system. Later on, when faced with any type of stress, our muscles react based on how we’ve taught them. If you grew up learning to bury emotions and tension somewhere in your body as a response to stress, it’s easy to continue that pattern into adulthood.


When we think of trauma – we often associate it with one big event or injury. Like an accident, major fall, or perhaps a violent crime or incident. This type of trauma typically results in obvious physical damage such as broken bones, bruises, or soft tissue and organ injuries. But trauma can also be more emotional in nature and less obvious. Emotional “micro-traumas” typically occur over the course of a lifetime and go unrealized for years. And regardless of the type of trauma or its perceived severity, your body reacts and “remembers” the emotional impact. But these memories are rarely conscious. Similar to what happens with social conditioning, if you’re faced with a stressful situation later in life that reminds your brain of a previous trauma, your body may still react like it did when the actual trauma occurred, except you won’t consciously know it.

For some folks, until they’re able to associate their physical symptoms with the deep, often emotional trauma that happened much earlier in life. They may continue to suffer or worse, resort to lifelong medications to manage their pain. Have you suffered from chronic pain and been told there is no “logical” evidence or reason for it? It’s possible it could be related to undiagnosed trauma. Find a therapist (psychology today is a great resource) who’s been specifically trained in this to help you.

Environmental Stressors and Habits 

Your environment and daily habits can have a huge impact on how your body feels from day to day. They can also influence both physical and emotional stress. For example, if you’ve been reading my articles for awhile, you know that sitting too much is a number one cause of back and neck pain. Sitting too much could be the result of your job – or stress.

When you’re stressed, you tend to be less motivated and you may opt for unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as more TV and more couch time. You’ll be less reluctant to exercise or go for a walk. How you set up your environment can play a big role in combating stress at home. If you’re working from home – choose a set up where you can stand at your computer for part of the day. Reduce the physical stress that sitting has on your body. Get the TV out of your bedroom. You’re more likely to get a good night’s sleep and less likely to turn the news on first thing in the morning.  This can be a source of stress in and of itself. The take home point is that life is hard enough. So set yourself up for success by creating an environment that encourages good daily habits.

Regardless of how or why stress impacts your body, there is one thing I know for certain, movement helps.

Start there and see what happens. Regular, every day movement helps you both physically and mentally and I have yet to see any negative consequences from a daily movement or exercise habit. If musculoskeletal pain is currently keeping you from daily movement – then talk to an expert who can help. 

Request to talk to one of my specialists to see if we would be the right fit to help you get out of pain. CLICK HERE to request a Free Discovery visit with one of my specialists.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To get in touch, or request a free copy of one of her guides to back, neck, knee, or shoulder pain, email her at [email protected].

6 Healthy Habits to Build your Immunity

Want to build your immunity? Here are 6 healthy habits…

It’s that time of year where a healthy immune system is more important than ever. Flu season is upon us and we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. As you gather around more family and friends with the upcoming Holidays, it’s important to do everything you can to keep your body’s natural germ-fighting system in tip top shape.

But first – how does your immune system work? When germs invade our bodies, they attack and multiply. This invasion is called an infection and it’s what causes us to be ill. White blood cells (also known as “immunity cells”) are carried by our blood and have specific functions designed to fight disease. Macrophages swallow up and digest germs. They leave parts of the invading germ behind, called antigens, which your body uses later to identify the germ if it tries to invade again – and stimulates antibodies to attack it. B-lymphocytes are the white blood cells that produce those antibodies. And T-lymphocytes are the ones who attack cells in your body that have already been infected. 

This system is designed to work naturally and on autopilot – but there are things you can do to help it run more smoothly. Here are 6 healthy habits you can incorporate into your lifestyle that will help you build a strong immune system.

1. Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your health in general, but it’s especially important when you’re trying to fight disease. Water helps flush everything out, and your cells work better when fully hydrated – including those that work for your immune system. Water isn’t the only thing that helps you stay hydrated. Broth, tea, or anything without a lot of sugar counts. Remembering to stay hydrated is especially important if you’re over 65, since the aging population tends to consume less liquid during the day.

2. Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control your body weight, and it boosts your immune system. Exercise keeps your blood flowing, allowing pathogens to be filtered out more efficiently. Plus, did you know sweat can kill pathogens on the surface of your skin? Regular exercise and activity also makes it less likely that you’ll get injured. A debilitating injury is a sure sentence for inactivity which will ultimately have an impact on your overall health and immune system.

3. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep deprivation has been proven to increase the risk of illness. Sleep researchers at the University of California – San Francisco, Carnegie Mellon University, and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center tested this theory by exposing 164 volunteers to the cold virus through nasal drops while monitoring their sleep and evaluating their health habits. The participants who slept less than five hours were four-and-a-half times more likely to catch a cold than those who slept for seven hours a night. So make sure you turn off those devices at least an hour before you head to bed and aim for seven hours of z’s per night.

4. Eat Well

Eating a healthy, plant-based and varied diet is one of the best ways to boost your immune system. Avoid processed foods and opt for lots of fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors. Purple cabbage, for example, has one of the highest amounts of antioxidants. There is some evidence that when you’re deficient in micronutrients such as zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C and E – that your immune system’s response will be altered. The best way to get all of these is through food – so choose a healthy diet to keep your immune system functioning at its best.

5. Cuddle with your Pets

OK – I read this and thought – I must include this in my article. A study at Washington State University found that simply cuddling with your dog or cat for 10 minutes had a significant impact on reducing cortisol levels. In other words, cuddling with your pet helps to minimize stress. Scientists have long suspected a link between increased emotional stress and decreased immune function. But quantifying this is challenging because stress is so subjective. Try to include daily habits of gratitude, meditation, and deep breathing. Any of these habits will help to reduce your stress and make it easier for your immune system to do its job.

6. Get Outside

Getting a regular dose of fresh air not only reduces my stress, but it gives me vitamin D. The effectiveness of vitamin D on fighting colds and flus is still unclear and being studied, but vitamin D is believed to help facilitate normal immune system function. But regardless of the research, getting outside definitely gets you away from all that circulated air, which has to be beneficial. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we get more colds in the winter, so when you can, bundle up and get outside. Your immune system won’t object.

If you can add even one of these healthy habits into your life you’ll be doing your immune system a favor.

Good health is arguably our most important asset in life. Don’t take it for granted and do whatever you can to preserve and optimize it.

If an injury or any kind of chronic ache or pain is keeping you from living the healthy lifestyle you truly want… don’t wait around for it to magically go away.

Request a FREE Discovery Session with one of my specialists. They’ll let you know if we can help and if you’re a good fit for what we do.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth, NH – where we help people aged 40+ be more active, healthy, and mobile – WITHOUT things like pills, procedures or surgery. Visit our free resources section for more healthy tips and advice for back, knee, neck, and shoulder pain.