Stress is our inseparable companion. It can be mobilizing, but when it lasts too long, it can adversely affect our health. We should not underestimate its symptoms, because if left untreated, it can lead to more serious diseases, overload the nervous system, and cause somatic ailments.
Our therapists Peter Domagala and Kris Krasowski explain how stress impacts our overall health and the importance of proper diagnosis and treatment.
Kris: We all experience stress to a greater or lesser degree in our everyday lives. However, not many of us realize how it affects the functioning of our bodies. Prolonged stress and tension cause an increase in the level of the stress hormone cortisol, which is not indifferent to our health. Long-term high cortisol levels primarily weaken our immune system, making us more vulnerable to illness. In addition, it exacerbates the symptoms of diseases from which we already suffer – especially autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Can physical therapy be helpful in treating stress?
Kris: After more than thirty years of work I believe that appropriate physical therapy techniques can help to cope with the consequences of long-term stress. Our treatments not only reduce pain, but also the internal tension caused by long-term stress. In some patients, the improvement is very noticeable. I recently had the pleasure of working with a patient who came to us with long-standing hip pain. After several visits, there was a marked improvement not only in the painful joint but also in her mental state. Tension has visibly subsided and even her husband has stated that she is less stressed, which has greatly improved her physical health.
Peter, do you have similar experiences?
Peter: Yes, I actually see similar results in my work with patients. I recently treated a patient with chronic inflammation of the Achilles tendon. Manual therapy and exercises helped him return to full function relatively quickly, but soon he returned complaining of the same problem. This time the cause was not a sports injury, but emotion. His two-year-old son was hospitalized and this very strong emotional experience caused the inflammation to recur and exacerbate his symptoms. I also treated a patient with severe knee pain. Several therapy sessions made the pain go down by half, but it wasn’t until vacation that all the symptoms went away. The patient herself said that the beach, relaxation, isolation from everyday problems accelerated her recovery.
How can you explain the positive results of such therapy?
Kris: Internal tensions – in muscles or ligaments, for example – lead to a defensive reaction of the nervous system, felt like an inability to achieve a state of relaxation. The more tension in different parts of the body, the stronger the reaction in the nervous system will be. Such a drawn-out state of chronic stress eventually takes its toll on the functioning of our body. Constant tension in all muscles and sleep problems as a consequence of constant stress makes us tired all the time. Aches and pains start to appear in various parts of the body – especially in the head and neck, but stress can also cause pain and problems in the digestive system. The therapist can relieve all of these tensions with appropriate techniques, primarily advanced manual therapy technique called Counterstrain.
Peter, how does the work with such patients look like in practice in your clinic?
Peter: We work as a team. Based on the interview conducted at the first visit, we know what creates the biggest problem and this determines which therapists the patient will work with to achieve the desired results. Our therapists specialize in different areas, so patients are referred to a specific person for treatment to be as effective as possible and completed in the shortest possible time.
We begin with a long, detailed evaluation. Palpation examination based on the Counterstrain technique allows us to make a very accurate diagnosis. We can diagnose the cause of pain – a tendon, bone, or dysfunction of the cardiovascular or digestive system. Very often the cause of pain, for example in the hip, is caused by a failure of the venous-lymphatic system and the lower digestive system (large intestine). It is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for “activating” the state of relaxation in our body.
As I mentioned earlier, our therapy is largely based on specific fascial manual therapy. If necessary, we also use laser, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and we also perform spinal traction. Exercises can also be part of the therapy but hands-on treatment always plays the most important role. We believe that the most efficient therapy is always best delivered by direct contact, with the hands of experienced and skilled therapists, which no devices, machinery, or any forms of “online therapy” can ever replicate. I can proudly say that thanks to our approach we are the true last resort for many patients whom the other clinics or therapists were not able to help.