Chronic Stress – How Massage Can Help

Our autonomic nervous system, which controls our body’s automatic functions like heart beat and digestion, consists of two branches: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The brain controls these branches, switching between the two all the time 수원스웨디시.

The SNS is activated when we face excitement, a threat, or a challenge. Our body gears up for “fight or flight”: we start breathing quicker to get more oxygen into the blood, our heart rate and blood pressure go up to transport more blood to the muscles, our muscles tense to be ready for action, and our adrenal glands poor adrenaline into the bloodstream to reinforce and maintain this SNS activity. Our digestive system slows down, to conserve energy. And sometimes there can be an evacuation of the contents first!

At the same time our brain also activates a chemical response: stress hormones, the main one being cortisol, are produced. These help release more energy, and suppress any inflammatory and allergic responses.

This “acute stress response” stems from primitive times: when we encountered a bear, we had to be able to fight it or flee. The cortisol ensured we could even do this with a sprained ankle. Nowadays of course we don’t face bears very often anymore. But the SNS and the chemical response are also activated when our manager announces redundancies at work, or our spouse suddenly tells us they want a divorce.

When the stressor is removed, our brain switches to the PNS branch. This is the part of the nervous system involved in the normal, relaxed working of our body’s systems. When the PNS switches on, the SNS is switched off. Our heart rate and blood pressure drop again, our breathing becomes slow and deep, our circulation returns to normal, our muscles relax, and our digestion starts up again. This is the state of rest and repair.

The stress response originally designed for short duration, to escape from or deal with an acute external situation (physically). However in our day and age, chronic (psychological or emotional) stress is becoming more and more common. Financial problems, a long-term illness in the family, or an unsatisfying job can all be causes of chronic stress.

During chronic stress, the brain can’t switch to PNS activity anymore, and we don’t return to the state of rest and repair. The cortisol keeps suppressing our immune system, and our SNS maintains the higher heart rate and blood pressure. Our muscles become chronically tense and sore, with lactic acid building up and fluid circulation and muscle functioning being restricted. Our digestive system remains suppressed. Eventually our immune system can’t fight infection or illness anymore, our adrenal glands are depleted and we become more susceptible to cardiovascular disease. Our muscles and hormonal glands become fatigued from the constant stimulation, and we may develop conditions such as stomach ulcers or IBS.

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