Stress in the time of Corona
What a time we are living in right now. Schedules and routines have been disrupted and there is little direction on when it will be safest to “return to normal”. This time of uncertainty is undoubtedly stressful for a great many people right now. Stress has been well documented to have some strange effects on how our body and brain perceive pain and danger and those downstream effects on how pain is felt and what particular things/activities seem to be triggering that pain response. Stress levels are not helped right now knowing for people that are in pain could be very apprehensive of going to seek the guidance of any healthcare provider- for fear of transmitting a virus they may not know they have, and definitely a virus that they would want to avoid contact with. And to add another level, what happens if that employer sponsored health insurance is now compromised due to loss of employment… That is an entirely different can of worms to dig through but definitely a stressful one as well.
I don’t write all this in an attempt to scare or worry anyone, but merely as an attempt to help demonstrate there is A LOT going on in the world and for each individual person right now that can affect pain and a pain response. I write this in hopes of offering some suggestions to place your mind at ease during these times and provide relief to pain when I am unable to serve most of my patients as well.
Pain is Weird
Pain is a very complex thing that is driven by a number of influencing factors including, but definitely not limited to; patient expectations, stress, sleep (quantity and quality), nutrition, activity level, and any number of other things. While there are definitely some items on that list we cannot have a vast amount of control over, there are also items on that list we are able to influence.
One of the biggest things anyone can do to help decrease pain is to provide the body with more oxygen. The pain response and perception of pain by the body/person is heavily influenced by the nervous system. Let me tell you, the nervous system is a greedy little bitch when it comes to its utilization of oxygen. Aside from the brain (which is technically a part of the nervous system) the nerves in your body require a lot of oxygen utilization to do their job.
If the nervous system is not getting what it needs, it will start to act out. Think of it as a toddler who is so upset because their beloved pet dog won’t play Tea Party the correct way.. We all know what this looks like. They are FREAKING out over the smallest thing that is so inconsequential to life, except when this happens to a kid it’s funny. We know they are being ridiculous. We are able to laugh it off, and maybe giggle at them a little bit, and move on.
This is comparable to what happens when your back starts to hurt after bending over to pick up a sock. It is such an inconsequential action, one that you have definitely done a million times without incidence, but why this time did it hurt so much. When these types of situations arise, think of your nervous system freaking out like the toddler at her Tea Party. It just needs to be calmed down…. It needs more oxygen to settle the system back to baseline.
Oxygen is the Answer
So how can we get the system more oxygen when it requires it? Exercise is always an option, and it is a great option! A 10 minute block of some cardiovascular exercise is enough to help meet the body’s demand for increased oxygen. Try a walk in the neighborhood, jumping jacks, pushups, a quick circuit of squats and lunges, you could even do some of your house cleaning at a faster pace, almost ANYTHING can become cardiovascular exercise if you change the pace/tempo of the activity.
If the exercise route is not the most appealing to you right now, that is totally understandable. Deep breathing exercises, diaphragmatic breathing exercises, or yoga breathing exercises are all great options that are very low stress to the rest of the body. By breathing deeper and slower as most of those techniques will teach you, you are able to increase the oxygen uptake and content in the body and blood to get similar effects to exercise.
As these uncertain times continue consider attempting one of these strategies to decrease pain or stress that you may be feeling. I think you will be surprised at how much you are able to help yourself feel better without having to venture out into the community.
At MBT we are always here to help navigate your pain points in any we can to help off load the rest of the healthcare system and keep you, and your families safe and sane.
Take care friends and go get that oxygen!