In today’s world stress is often an inevitable part of being human. During times of change, like during pregnancy, stress can increase because of the numerous changes that occur not only on the physical level but also on the emotional spiritual and soul level. Many of my patients, whether pregnant, or men and women with pelvic pain, have an increase in their pain because they are experiencing high levels of stress in their day to day life. Although stress does not cause pain, its related physiological effects can make pain worse.
The Physiology of Stress
Your body undergoes many physiological changes when you become stressed out. The first thing that happens is that your endocrine system reacts by releasing many different types of stress hormones into your bloodstream including adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones awaken you mentally, physically and prepare your body for an emergency response. The body goes through physical changes as well, including increased heart rate, tightening of the muscles, increased sharpness and keenness of the five senses, elevation of blood pressure, increase in perspiration, and shunting of blood from the small muscles to the large muscles of the arms and legs. In addition, your physical strength increases, your reaction time gets faster, and your focus is sharper. These bodily changes prepare you to either fight or flee from a dangerous situation. When real danger is present, stress is a good thing and can motivate you to perform better in life. But when stress is an everyday occurrence it can be detrimental to your health and relationships, eventually clouding your thinking and leading to feelings of being overwhelmed. If you’re stressed over a busy schedule, an argument with a friend, a traffic jam, or a mountain of bills, your body reacts just as strongly as if you were facing a life-or-death situation. If you have a lot of responsibilities and worries, your emergency stress response may be “on” most of the time. The more your body’s stress system is activated, the easier it is to fall into a pain response or flare-up and the harder it is to shut it off.
Long-term stress can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression. Researchers at the Northwestern University Institute of Neuroscience found that people suffering with chronic back pain, for example, not only demonstrate abnormal brain chemistry, particularly in the emotional center of the brain, but also actual brain shrinkage (The Journal of Neuroscience, November, 2004).
For pelvic pain sufferers and pregnant patients it is extremely important to manage stress and keep it in check. Stress reduction techniques, meditations, affirmations, and visualizations are easy to do and require no special equipment and can be done anywhere and anytime.
Connect to Your Breath
One of the best ways to kick stresses ass is to connect to the breath. In this great video I show you three different types of breathing techniques that are incredibly effective in reducing stress. Although this video is demonstrating breathing techniques for pregnant patients, these techniques also work for all patients, both men and women. Once my patients incorporate these breathing techniques into their day to day function they find themselves more relaxed, clear headed and focused. I invite to do the breathing techniques highlighted in my video and feel the stress melt away. These techniques can be performed in the restorative pose as shown in the video or in seated meditation. You will gain tremendous stress reduction benefits even if you do breathing techniques for as little as five minutes a day.