Can Stress Affect Recovery From Injury?

Stress can be a good thing. It drives us to achieve and can be a useful motivator. However, when the stress becomes unmanageable or overwhelming it can have negative effects on the body.

With the hectic and fast, modern world that we live in, it can sometimes be easy to let things get on top of us.  During periods of stress, many of us tend to neglect the basic needs of our body by comfort eating, getting less sleep and less exercise, and having less time for ourselves to relax.  The body works to maintain a balance within, and with these negative lifestyle changes it will instigate the necessary adaptations to the stress to try and achieve that balance.

How Can Stress Affect Us?

When we are stressed our bodies tend to adopt guarded or defensive postures, similar to the foetal position, often with tense and raised shoulders, shoulders rounded forward, arms across the chest and general tension at the neck, back and hips. This is often a result of stress and the fight or flight response.  These postures can increase the stress placed on certain muscles and tissues, and over time can start to cause pain and discomfort.  People who report being stressed, often complain of stiff neck, tightness and aches in shoulders and low back. Sound familiar?

Physiologically, these levels of increased, prolonged stress can slow down tissue recovery time and the increased levels of cortisol that results can increase sensitivity to pain.  It also puts certain tissues and structures under increased load and strain by being overworked and put in a biomechanically inefficient position. Together, all this can reduce healing time and will make you more prone to pain or injury.  There is a term called somatisation whereby the brain attempts manifest and communicate the stress through a more familiar, physical form. This highlights the complexity or the brain and body!

What Can You Do To Reduce the Impact of Stress?

  • Avoid¬†eating in front of the TV
  • Take 15 mins each day to switch off, away from your tablet or phone!
  • Get into a regular bedtime routine
  • Practice relaxation breathing
  • Get regular exercise
  • Have regular breaks from sitting at the desk
  • Decrease caffeine intake, particularly in the evening
  • Spend time with friends and on your hobbies
  • Have a massage or similar treatment
  • Put you and your physical and mental wellbeing first!

Vikki Bradley BSc(Hons) GSR Dip SRM, Sports Rehabilitation and Sports Massage



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