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The Stress Response: Why breathing patterns matter

Stress has become an increasingly discussed topic due to the consistently rising number of people who are experiencing the detrimental impacts of chronic stress. Stress is subjective, meaning what one perceives as a stressful stimuli and how they react will differ between individuals. It could be strongly argued that such concern for the impacts of stress correlates with the recent surge in technological developments which have enabled us to understand more about the functioning of the human body. As time continues, scientists are uncovering more and more be it planned through hypothesis or spontaneously discovered. However, we still do not know everything.

What we do know:

Image copyright owned by Kimberley Shone of Move Well Nottingham.

Considering the above flow chart, we at least seem to understand the fundamental occurrences which take place upon receiving a stressful stimulus. However, we still need to learn/prove an awful lot:

- More research needs to be conducted to support the findings of the "fast non-genomic feedback system".

- The extent of damage stress can cause on the body, from organs to genetics.

- How this alters in a variety congenital disorders, ie. conditions people are born with such as TNX Deficient Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS).

- Supporting evidence for stress induced Fibromyalgia.

- The extent of relationships between physical and mental states, including hypermobility.

- How and why posture can improve mood and memory (Peper et al., 2017), which could help resilience towards stressful stimuli.

- Fascia's involvement in the stress response.

...and so much more!

What we now know and what it means to the general public:

- Stress impacts ALL areas/aspects of the body, from renal organs to muscle energy output.

- It is important to recognise and understand breathing patterns.

- It is vital to acknowledge when stress becomes chronic, and in doing so, address it. If an individual feels overwhelmed, consider why, and consider CBT or simply talking to family and friends to see the stimuli from a different perspective which does not seem so overwhelming.

- That muscle memory is as ingrained as a person's prevalence to react to a variety of stimuli (chicken and egg argument, most likely the prevalence impacting muscle memory due to breathing patterns).

- Anyone reading this should not be concerned, but rather find resolution, as there are ways to combat the impacts of stress, it is just finding the best way for YOU as each individual is different, and therefore their treatment should be.

What this means to a manual therapist:

- Treat each client subjectively. No two clients are the same, even twins for example, as they will have had different experiences and will perceive these experiences differently depending on their subjective nature and nurture.

- Assess the client's breathing patterns at each treatment, taking into consideration the context such as if the client feels stressed, upset, excited, or relaxed.- Address the client's breathing patterns with an aim to create efficient diaphragmatic breathing. This can be done through Muscle Energy Techniques or Soft Tissue Therapy. To treat the abdomen requires qualification providing in depth knowledge and awareness of this area as misuse of treatment in this area has the potential to augment and/or cause further issue. It has been found that appropriate Soft Tissue Mobilization can improve abdominal scarring, benefits including scar mobility, pain, posture, reduction in medication, increased pressure tolerance, and those experiencing infertility (Wasserman et al., 2018). - Stress causes inflammation, and therefore reducing inflammation via Soft Tissue Therapy and Manual Therapy techniques is vital. NSAIDs simply address the symptom, not necessarily the cause which emphasizes the importance to treat subjectively.

I have recently written an extensive review paper to which this blog is the tip of the iceberg, there is so much more to know! The paper is currently in submission stage for medical journal publication... watch this space!

Want to know how Kim can help you and your stress, just contact Kim (available in the Contact section of this website). It may be that Kim advises another form of treatment, you do not know until you ask!

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