When first coming to see a Chiropractor, many people are quite surprised at the amount of information we want to know about their health.
Most patients expect us to ask about their pain, and questions about their occupation and exercise habits don’t seem too unusual either. But many don’t expect us to ask about their wider health and lifestyle – questions about diet, sleep habits, alcohol and caffeine intake for example.
Why do we need this information? Basically, it comes down to the fact that we are interested primarily in the health of your nervous system. The nervous system – brain, spinal cord and all the smaller nerves connecting these areas to the rest of the body – is our “master control system”. Every single cell in our bodies is controlled via this system. Symptoms such as pain, stiffness and weakness are usually a result of a problem or interference in the nervous system. To find the root cause of these symptoms, we have to look at why the nervous system isn’t performing optimally.
Although some problems can result from an injury, such as falling over, the vast majority of cases we see at our Sevenoaks and Beckenham clinics are caused by many small “stresses” on the nervous system which build up over time. Though we often use the word “stress” to describe mental stress, stresses on the nervous system come in a much wider variety. They can be placed into one of three categories:
1. Physical stresses: This includes any physical demand placed on the body. For example, a large sudden stress such as falling from a ladder, or repeated “micro-trauma” such as Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). A lack of sufficient movement is also a physical stressor, as motion is important for proper function of our joints, muscles and nerves.
2. Biochemical stresses: This includes any harmful chemicals which enter the body, infections, or a lack of adequate nutrition (e.g. inadequate Omega 3 intake). Tobacco, alcohol, dehydration and poor diet are all examples of biochemical stressors.
3. Psychological stresses: The category most of us mean when we use the word “stress”. This includes anything detrimental to our psychological well-being. Major examples include marital problems, death of a loved one, and depression. Minor “micro-stresses” such as little annoyances or conflicts, or poor sleep are also included, as these can add up over time. Pain itself can be a psychological stressor, if it becomes something we worry about.
So in order to get to the root of a particular problem, we want to know the amount of stress your nervous system is under. In part 2 of this series, we’ll look at how these different stresses affect the health of our nervous system, and what you can do about it.