The effects of stress on your musculoskeletal system:

Stress can be good for you in small doses. However, in our busy modern lifestyle full of deadlines, lockdowns and financial strain, the constant flight/fight reaction can be detrimental to our health.

Stress is one of the body’s protective mechanisms inbuilt to keep you energetic and alert in the case of an emergency.

Our nervous system contributes to the fight/flight response.

It signals to the adrenal glands to release hormones which increase our heart and respiration rate, dilate blood vessels in our arms and legs, and change our digestive process so that we have more available sugar in our blood stream for energy.

Chronic stress can result in long term drain on the body. As our nervous system continues to trigger physical reactions, it causes wear and tear on the body.

It is the continuous activation of the nervous system that can become detrimental to our health.

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Monday 8:30-12:00, 2:00-6:30 Tuesday 8:30-12:00, 2:00-6:30 Wednesday 3:30-6:30 

Thursday 9:00-12:00, 2:00-7:30 Friday 9:00-12:00, 2:00-6:30 Saturday 8:30-12:00, 


Dr Paije Cox & Dr Alison Nicholls 


Merilyn Kaye & Niamh 

1/174 Main Rd, Blackwood 8278 6057 

But how does stress relate to our musculoskeletal health?

When the body is stressed, our muscles tense up, this is the body’s way of guarding against injury and pain. With sudden onset stress the muscles tense and then release their tension when the stressor passes. Chronic stress on the other hand causes the muscles in the body to be in a constant state of guardedness. For example, tension-type headache is associated with chronic muscle tension in the area of the shoulders, neck and head. The effect of stress on our body is not limited to headaches though, stress can cause tension throughout our entire body and put it in a state of constant work. Similarly, as with exercise, this can cause fatigue and muscle aches from being over worked. 

If any posture is repeated over a long time due to a particular situation like stress, then our nervous system will pattern that combination of tight muscles and posture into an easily reproducible motor program. Then, when a stressful situation is experienced again, you body will re-establish that patterned motor program in response. This in turn decreases our ability to relax and increases our energy expenditure. The more this posture pattern is re-enforced, the quicker and more ingrained the body’s response to the stress becomes set and the harder it is to retrain the body out of this posture. However, if we understand this process, we can learn to alleviate its effects and even re-program the pattern to one that is less detrimental. As chiropractors, we know the effect poor posture can have on your health. 

In general, the effects of stress on our musculo-skeletal system may include muscular reactivity, chronic muscle tension and pain, headaches, exaggeration of involuntary postural patterns and, if the stress continues for a long period of time, eventual bone demineralisation.

Ways to reduce stress

  • Talk to a friend
  • Take a minute- and a deep breath
  • Exercise 
  • Do something you enjoy
  • Improve your sleep
  • Improve your diet
  • Organise/plan
  • Yoga/meditation
  • Resolve conflict
  • Create a better work/life balance
  • Speak to Dr Paije or Dr Alison about how we can help