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 help treat stress?
Kris: After more than thirty years of practicing, I believe that appropriate physical therapy techniques can help to cope with the consequences of long-term stress. Our treatment techniques reduce pain and 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 in the painful joint and 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 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 emotions, not a sports injury. His two-year-old son was hospitalized, and such a strong emotional experience caused the inflammation to recur and symptoms to worsen. I also treated a patient with severe knee pain. Several therapy sessions made the pain go down by half, but it was not until vacation that all the symptoms went away. The patient herself said that the beach, relaxation, and 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, feeling like an inability to achieve a state of relaxation. The more tense our body feels, the stronger the nervous system response will be. Such a prolonged state of chronic stress eventually takes its toll on the functioning of our bodies. The constant tension of all muscles and sleep problems, a consequence of chronic stress, make us tired. 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 the advanced manual therapy technique called Strain Counterstrain.
Peter, what 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 it determines which therapists the patient will work with to achieve the desired results. Our therapists specialize in a variety of areas, so patients are referred to specific individuals to ensure treatment is as effective as possible and completed in the shortest time possible.
We begin with a detailed evaluation. A palpation examination based on the Strain 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 before, our therapy is mostly based on specific fascial manual therapy. If necessary we also use laser, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and 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 our approach has made us a truly last resort for many patients that other clinics or therapists have not been able to help.