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The Wide-Ranging Effects of Anxiety

Holistic Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is about much more than bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The focus of chiropractic is on the musculoskeletal system, and yet the benefits of chiropractic care extend far beyond these connective tissue structures.

Chronic musculoskeletal tension results in various biochemical changes such as excessive and prolonged build-up of lactic acid in the muscles - a metabolic end-product of muscular contraction. These metabolites, which are accumulating wastefully and unnecessarily, irritate local nerve endings. This nerve irritation leads to increases in local muscle tension, setting-up a vicious circle of muscle tension, nerve irritation, more muscle tension, and more nerve irritation. It is important to realize that these irritated nerves send signals to all the other parts of the body, causing increased levels of activity and unnecessary use of precious resources. When this happens, the person may become irritable, gets tired more easily, has sleep disturbances, and may even develop various diseases.

Chiropractic care is a powerful healing method that positively affects many body systems as a result of addressing stresses in the musculoskeletal system.

We humans seem to be wired for modest levels of anxiety to act as a fear-arousal warning system. Anxiety can be characterized as fear, worry,  apprehension or uneasiness. Anxiety is a common psychological state in which the basic message is an internal urging to "get away from this situation". The state of anxiety is commonly accompanied by various physiologic symptoms triggered by a surge in adrenaline - including increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and increased blood flow to the major muscle groups as the body prepares to "fight or flee".
These are all typical responses to environmental threats. The overall process is controlled by the amygdala and hippocampus, two regions of the brain's limbic system which process memory, emotional response, and spatial navigation. With frequent and prolonged anxiety states, a person may begin to respond to perceived threats as strongly as they respond to real threats. This anxiety state may persist and even become the default condition for the individual.
Those with chronic anxiety may experience chronic back pain,1,2 chronic muscular tension, fibromyalgia,3 headaches, chest pain, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations. Chronic anxiety may cause a person to anticipate the worst, to have ongoing feelings of dread, to be constantly irritable and tense, and some may experience frightening and debilitating panic attacks. Eventually the person may become worn out from the constant drain on their inner resources and a likely outcome is depression. The person simply cannot take any more stress.
Chronic anxiety has a specific impact on the musculoskeletal system. Persistently elevated levels of adrenaline create ongoing tension in the postural muscles of the lower back and the weight-bearing gluteal muscles, pelvic musculature, and hamstrings. The long-term effects of chronic anxiety can include chronic lower back pain, sciatica caused by inflammation of the sciatic nerve, and lumbar disc disease. Of course, any of these health problems create even more anxiety for the person, creating a vicious circle of anxiety, pain, more anxiety, and more pain.

Solutions for chronic anxiety usually require a multidisciplinary holsitic approaches. Nutrition, for example, is an important factor in restoring a person's homeostatic mechanisms. Significantly reducing one's intake of simple carbohydrates - soda, muffins, cookies, cake, fast food, and even juice - will often have a substantial impact. Making sure to have five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables every day will also provide great benefit.

Magnesium deficiency is extremely common in the US and can cause or worsen anxiety.  Magnesium supplementation can be especially useful taken at bedtime, because it helps relax the muscles and can help a person feel more calm and fall asleep easier.  Magnesium can also help regulate blood pressure and cardiac function.  Good food sources of magnesium include pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables such as spinach and swiss chard.

Chiropractic care can frequently provide considerable assistance to those with chronic anxiety. By normalizing activity within the musculoskeletal system and reducing muscular stress and tension, chiropractic care helps eliminate an unnecessary source of biochemical and physiologic stress.

1Newcomer KL, et al: Anxiety levels, fear-avoidance beliefs, and disability levels at baseline and at 1 year among subjects with acute and chronic low back pain. Phys Med Rehabil 2(6):514-520, 2010
2Hurley DA, et al: Physiotherapy for sleep disturbance in chronic low back pain: a feasibility randomised controlled trial. BMC Musculoskeletal Disord 11:70, 2010 [11 pages]
3Silverman S, et al: Toward characterization and definition of fibromyalgia severity. BMC Musculoskeletal Disord 11:66, 2010 [9 pages]

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