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Stress manifesting as Physical Pain


Stress is the body’s reaction to potentially harmful situations. These can be real or perceived but when we feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs in our bodies that allows us to act and prevent injury. This reaction is often known as the “fight-or-flight” response. During this time our heart rate increases, breathing quickens and blood pressure rises getting us ready to take action. It also increases our appetite and provides energy to our muscles. After the threat has passed, our hormones return to normal levels and the body calms down. In this way we are designed to handle small doses of stress. However, our bodies are not equipped to handle long-term, chronic stress without both mental and physical consequences.

Stress can affect all aspects of your life, including your emotions, behaviours, thinking ability, and physical health.

Some physical symptoms of stress include:

  • Low energy
  • Headaches
  • Increased weight due to comfort eating and drinking
  • Upset stomach, including diarrhoea, constipation, and nausea
  • Aches, pains, and tense muscles
  • Insomnia or poor sleep quality
  • Frequent infections
  • Clenched jaw and grinding teeth

If you are suffering physical symptoms of excess stress then massage, in its many forms, may be able to help you. Through touch, massage activates the nerve cell receptors under the skin and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. This generates a calming effect through the release of mood-enhancing chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. It will also reduce the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline.

Massage has also been shown to provide the following physical benefits that are of relevance to clients with excess stress:

  • Release of muscle tension, including tension headaches
  • Decrease in pain from this tension
  • Improved blood circulation
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Lower resting heart rate· Improved sleep quality and quantity
  • Increase in white blood cell count (improved immune system)

Please get in touch if you have any questions, or need some general lifestyle advice. If you have a diagnosed mental health condition, please check with your doctor before considering massage as it is not suitable for all and other strategies may help you more effectively.