Part 1: Physical stress on the body – without stress there can’t be change
Most people think of stress as being a bad thing for your body but in a lot of ways it can be very beneficial and in fact is crucial to our survival.
The human body responds to stress by improving its capacity to withstand that stress and thereby becoming more resilient. This can be witnessed when the body acclimatises to extreme temperatures or changes in altitude, or when building muscle strength in the gym. In fact, you can apply the same rules to all of the body’s systems.
Humans have harnessed this throughout history to improve our health whether it be football players exposing themselves to a variety of stresses in the pre-season to become stronger and more robust or using a small dose of a disease in a vaccine to immunize the body to that disease. A recent dieting trend is to intermittently fast from food which is just taking advantage of stress applied to the body’s digestive system.
In physiotherapy we use stress to our advantage daily. Let’s say hypothetically that a patient present to us after a recurrent episode of lower back pain and has decided to completely rest and stop all exercise to allow the pain to subside. The problem is that the pain didn’t resolve and now when the patient returns to exercise the symptoms return worse than ever! Often these injuries can arise from a lack of resilience in the area of injury and so by resting the tissues you might find that the loading capacity of the tissue actually can decrease. So by keeping moving and safely loading all of the muscles, bones, joints and discs the capacity will continue to increase, allowing the patient to return to normal function (MAGIC!)