Treat one condition: stress
Because stress is at the root of almost all health imbalances, it’s important to treat its cause, not its symptoms.
By Howard F. Loomis Jr., DC
It’s surprising how few people can answer the following question: “What do you have to see before you know what to do?” The answer is simple: A deviation from normal. And once you’ve found the cause of the deviation, the treatment becomes obvious.
While the answer is simple, putting it into practice is not. The body always compensates for stress, and unless you carefully examine the causes, you may see only the compensation. Healthcare providers, it seems, only treat one condition: stress.
The body must maintain itself against gravity, and it must maintain the extracellular fluid within relatively narrow limits of temperature, pH, volume, and concentration of dissolved substances.
The body must likewise respond to any stimulus that threatens any of these factors. Often, this is done at the subconscious or autonomic level. If the stimulus is too strong or lasts too long, the body must rely on whatever compensatory action it can take.
In the 1950s, Hans Selye, MD, studied how stress affects the human body. His studies can be summarized as follows: The body responds physiologically to any form of stress exactly the same way, whether that stress comes from a mechanical, chemical, or emotional source.
The following table shows the various stages of reaction through which the body progresses if the stimulus is not removed.
The following quote is taken from Selye’s book titled The Stress of Life:
Apparently, disease is not just suffering, but a fight to maintain the homeostatic balance of our tissues, despite damage. Could all this vagueness be somehow translated into the precise terms of modern science? Could it point a way to explore whether or not there is some nonspecific defense system built into our body, a mechanism to fight any kind of disease? Could it lead us to a unified theory of disease?
To improve your clinical results and gain more patient referrals, turn your attention back to your basic science education and chiropractic philosophy. After all, chiropractors are unique in that they consider both structure and visceral function every time they examine or treat a patient.
The body employs its nervous system to connect its anatomical and physiological functions. Any deviation from normal in either system results in muscle contraction, which leads to loss of joint mobility, misalignments, and subluxations.
Many times, visceral dysfunctions perpetuate and prevent correction of structural problems. Finding these seemingly hidden causes will help lead to improved clinical results and increased referrals.
Both visceral and structural dysfunctions produce muscle contraction and loss of range of motion. As a chiropractor, your purpose is to determine the cause. Once the cause is known, the treatment becomes obvious.
Consider stress as a specific physiologic cascade of events that are set in motion whenever the brain must direct its autonomic nervous system and endocrine system to respond to stress, be it from a mechanical/structural, nutritional/chemical, or emotional source.
Most of your patients are in some phase of stress because it is the cause of all symptoms. Therefore, you can state that all symptoms originate from three sources, musculoskeletal, visceral, or neurological dysfunction.
From a chiropractic viewpoint, the body’s first response to stress is muscle contraction and visceral organs share neurological innervation with muscles. In fact, muscle contraction occurs and can be readily palpated before symptoms manifest.
Yet, most practitioners concentrate on the therapeutic measures to relieve the symptoms and do not attempt to find the cause.
There is a cascade of physiological events that occurs when the body responds to stress.
You are taught the body’s reaction to acute stress — the response of the sympathetic system.
Yet that cascade is second to the body’s awareness that it does not have adequate glucose for energy production to meet the stress. That realization triggers the sympathetic “fight-or-flight” mechanism.
When needed, large portions of the sympathetic nervous system discharge at the same time and enable the body to dramatically increase muscle activity in many different ways. The sympathetic system also is strongly activated in many emotional states.
For example: In the state of rage, which is elicited mainly by stimulating the hypothalamus, signals are trans- mitted downward through the reticular formation and spinal cord to cause massive sympathetic discharge and all of the sympathetic events listed above ensue immediately.
That describes acute stress. The slower acting endocrine system is also activated and becomes more involved with chronic stress. The sum of effects permits the person to perform far more strenuous physical activity than would otherwise be possible — but for how long?
- Increased glycolysis in muscle and increased muscle strength
- Increased arterial pressure
- Increased rates of cellular metabolism throughout the body
- Increased blood flow to active muscles combined with decreased blood flow to organs that are not needed for rapid activity
- Increased blood glucose concentration
- Increased mental activity
- Increased blood clotting ability
The possibilities for this profession to play a key role in the treatment of chronic stress are enormous and should be further examined.
Howard F. Loomis JR., DC, is a 1967 graduate of Logan College of Chiropractic. He ran an active general practice in Missouri for 25 years. He is a member of the postgraduate faculty at Logan and is the founder and president of Enzyme Formulations Inc. and the Loomis Institute of Enzyme Nutrition. He can be reached at 800-662-2630 or through loomisenzymes.com.