Whenever you hurt yourself, you try to link the cause through a physical trauma, or if it's an unknown, you attribute it to age or an old injury from years ago coming back to haunt you.
We always resort to alleviating the physical stress of pain as the primary solution.
But what happens when we exhaust those resources and our movement capabilities and strength all appear to be normal, even though pain still exists?
In most cases, we are in a heightened state of stress.
Our nervous system sends and receives information throughout the body, accounting for all the checks and balances of our multi-system being. We can think of our cardiovascular, immune system, respiratory system, digestive system, and other physiological processes that occur in the body relaying information to the brain for further interpretations, eventually leading to particular messages to be sent out.
By having a body that is a system of systems, information from one area, may affect one or multiple areas elsewhere.
All of these systems can become sensitive and less efficient in the state of stress, and a weak link in any of them can increase the stress response themselves. This also means pain is a stressor in and of itself.
With other systems not being up to par, we may have an increased sensitivity towards pain, magnifying the signal in the body. The pain may increase your stress response, further increasing sensitivity, and making a potentially more painful scenario.
Talk about a vicious cycle.
So what could be the other factors affecting us and how can we eliminate them?
If you are eating foods that disrupt the digestive system, you are increasing a stress response in the body. Your gut health is important in providing support to the immune system as well. On top of this, having a poor nutritional intake such as fried or prepackaged foods will decrease the overall nutrients sufficient to rebuild injured areas.
Aim to eat more fruits, vegetables, and more whole foods. If you can't pronounce what's on the label and don't know what it is, there's a potential sign that you probably don't want to eat it.
Poor sleep quantity AND quality can greatly affect your recovery ability. Sleep is a time where the body is able to slow certain processes down, evaluate, and allocate resources to much needed areas, such as injury sites. It also provides you with restoration from the daily cognitive stresses throughout the day. Decreased sleep quality will keep the brain overstimulated in a time for regeneration, leading to mental fog and overall mood changes (I can feel the stress coming on already from some of you).
Everyone knows they should aim towards getting their 8 hours, but how the time is spent in bed is just as important.
Keep the room dark, void of any night lights and soundless (white noise is acceptable). Even the smallest bit of light and sound will provide stimulation to the brain at an unneeded time.
If you snore, you will want to get this evaluated and treated. Snoring leads to poor oxygen uptake, robbing you of deeper sleep states and much needed recovery zones for all aspects of your health.
3. Cardiovascular Fitness
Do you have a high resting heart rate? (>80). If you do, then your cardiovascular system is being overworked and is a good indicator you are in a higher resting state of stress. Having a well developed aerobic system has been linked as being a buffer to attenuate stressors within the body.
Starting with 15-20min walks a few times a week will help improve your aerobic fitness and give you the benefits of discharging the stresses imposed on ourselves daily.
4. Emotional Stress
This is a biggie. We all have been here, and more so now a days as we are inundated with a vast amount of information. Social media, the news, our jobs, family obligations, and the list can go on and on. We get into a cognitive overload, leading to overwhelm, anxiety, and heightened states of stress.
We are just always switched on.
If only we listened to what Austin Powers was telling us the whole time.
The point is, we never get a break to unload this emotional and cognitive weight, which can wreak havoc on our overall health.
By disconnecting for at least 5 min a day in quiet, with no interruptions, you can let all the day to day bombardment drift away as you sit in peace. You don't even have to be meditating. Just getting away from our devices is sufficient enough.
You can even kill two birds with one stone and go for a quiet walk by yourself, improving the cardiovascular system and unloading the mind.
In conclusion, you now have an idea of how other factors in our daily life can affect our recovery system by inadvertently increasing the stress responses in the body, delaying healing and increasing sensitivity to pain, magnified through movements that may be innocuous in a normal resting state.
There may be other factors that were not even mentioned here, but you should have a better understanding of how there is a bigger picture to a problem, rather than zeroing on a physical cause of a symptom.
Perhaps you want to know more or you have an even more involved problem.
No worries, you can easily set up a free phone consultation with us to get your questions answered and your concerns put to rest.
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Dr. Peter Dionisopoulos is the owner and founder of Dynamic Performance & Rehab. He has a Doctorate in Physical Therapy and enjoys to help active adults maintain their lifestyle and provide natural solutions to their pain.