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Stress Management and Yoga for Functional Restoration Programs

January 12th, 2016 11:44am

Stress Management and Yoga for Functional Restoration Programs

The body is extremely intelligent. Everything it does, it does for optimal survival. Chronic pain is a learned response that activates both the physical body and the emotional centers of the brain. Acute pain has a very important function for the body. It alerts us that there is an issue that needs to be addressed for optimally healing. However, chronic pain is a boosted response to even minor irritations that alerts us before an injury can occur. It is a learned response involving complex circuitry in the brain that makes one more sensitized to future pain to smaller and smaller stimulus. It is our bodies’ way of trying to protect us, but ask anyone with chronic pain and they just want their body to relax and let it go.

Can Old Habits be Changed?

The good news is the brain and body can change with specific treatment and intention. The best way to unlearn chronic stress and pain responses is to give the mind and body healthier responses to practice. Doing activities that help relax and ease stress can help change the heightened pain response.

At Recovia we utilize yoga and breathing exercises to both relax and stimulate the body in a more positive way, as well as build core strength and improve balance. Many of our patients believed they could not do yoga before coming to our Functional Restoration Program (FRP). They are pleasantly surprised they can succeed. Every success they have builds confidence and hope that positively impact their outcomes.

What is a Perceived Threat?

We also incorporate Heart Resilience Training with a HeartMath Trainer to change our patients chronic stress responses to more positive alternatives. Stress is all about a perceived threat. Most of the current perceived threats in our lives are not actually physical threats like our ancestors faced, like a sudden predator requiring us to either fight or flee. This perceived threat activates the sympathetic nervous system, which is like our bodies gas pedal. It activates blood flow to our muscles, increases our respiration and heart rate, so we are amped up and ready to attack or retreat. Today most of the “threats” we currently have are not physically life threatening in the moment and do not require that amped up response they create. Our threats might be monetary, like a bill in the mail you weren’t prepared for, or relational, like a fight with our spouse; however we might find ourselves with our blood pumping through our body with a feeling you want to punch something or run. This is a natural response, but just not an appropriate one for these threats. When you have this response over and over throughout the day it both drains your energy and increases your perception of pain.
The study “Modulation of pain sensation by stress-related testosterone and cortisol” in the journal Anaesthesia showed that stress significantly increased anxiety ratings and salivary cortisol levels, but decreased salivary testosterone levels. Stress also increased pain ratings and decreased pain thresholds. In other words, when we are stressed our pain is worse. Chronic pain tend to increase stress, so it can be a vicious cycle.

How Recovia Can Help

At Recovia we work to change our perception of the things causing us stress, relax and let them go. It is our goal to have our patients graduate from our program feeling physically and emotionally better and having learned tools to stay that way.

Written by Dr. Chrissy Christian, DC

The advice and information provided herein is for educational purposes only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions.


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RECOVIA is a multidisciplinary, outcome driven, functional program. Programs are customized to each patient's needs and include behavioral health, physical therapy and medical management if needed.


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