Win With Welllness: What are Mental Causes of Subluxation?
By Dr. Breanna Tivy
The level of optimal health a person has is influenced by three main stressors: chemical, physical, and mental. The affect that mental stress has on the body is probably the most nebulous, but is likely the most pervasive of the three. We live in a fast paced society and are bombarded with stress about family, money, work, etc. It’s easy to make a list of things that you can do to reduce your overall physical stress load, or to make decisions about your diet that reduce your overall chemical stress load. It is, however, more difficult to escape the basic stress of everyday life, which makes mental stress the most common of the three.
One of the ways that mental stress can cause subluxation is by creating physical stress. Emotional stress or tense situations change our posture. Many people will report that when they are stressed they feel muscle tension across their shoulders and through their neck, and a result these areas tense up. When excess tension is created in muscles it creates imbalance and influences the bony structures of your spine underneath. Due to the fact that many of these emotional stressors are long lasting, subluxation can result from ongoing imbalance.
Another way in which mental stress causes subluxation is due to the body’s stress response. From a primitive standpoint, the stress response was designed to get you out of a physically threatening situation. For example, if one of our hunter/gatherer ancestors encountered a bear, the stress response was created to get them out of that situation as quickly as possible. This involves redistributing resources in the body away from areas that are unnecessary for survival at that moment. At the moment you need to escape from a bear, digesting your food or keeping the body free from illness may not be particularly important. The difference between our hunter/gatherer ancestors and us is that our stressors are not the immediate threat of a bear, but long term and unrelenting stresses of jobs, relationships, and money. Therefore, these “less important” systems in the body, like the digestive and immune systems, lack the resources they need over long periods of time. This creates a compromise of these tissues and systems. The body communicates this compromise back up to the brain via negative messaging, and ultimately can create subluxation.
The stress response also triggers the release of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. Its primary function is to increase blood sugar. In an immediate stressful situation, this would allow the body a rapid source of energy. Over long periods of time, it can lead to weight gain and insulin resistance. Cortisol also increases blood pressure, suppresses the immune system and decreases bone formation. All of these effects of cortisol, which occur as a response to mental stress, create physical stressors that can result in subluxation.