Mental anxiety can lead to physical symptoms that cause body tension, aches and pains. By addressing the physical symptoms of mental anxiety, we can then focus on dealing with the underlying mental aspects affecting our health, and improve our overall condition.
We speak to Dr Neil Furuno DC of New Future Chiropractic, a chiropractor with over 14 years of experience and a former US elite-level gymnast, to find out how one can help lessen the physical stresses caused by mental anxiety.
Q: As a chiropractor, how would you recognise if a patient is suffering from mental anxiety?
Dr Furuno: I look at the body holistically and try to find the root causes of a problem, and not just address the downstream effects. I use a combination of my personal experience along with my clinical knowledge to help those suffering from the negative effects of stress on the body. I have also learned to recognise the signs associated with stress in my patients.
Diagnosing the conditions resulting from, or affected by mental anxiety, starts with understanding the patient well. Before addressing his/her physical symptoms, I talk to the patients and try to get an idea of their current stress levels.
Q: What are some of the symptoms?
Dr Furuno: Often times you can detect the physical signs of mental anxiety from the person’s posture, their facial expressions, and the chronicity of their conditions. The amount of sleep they average per night can also be an indication of mental anxiety.
Common signs of stress include tension and pain in the neck, shoulders, upper back and lower back. Headaches may also happen frequently along with neck tension. The expression that someone is a “pain in the neck/butt,” is more than just a joke!
Q: What are the main areas you would focus on, and what treatments would you recommend? How do these treatments help alleviate the condition?
Dr Furuno: Chiropractors are experts in musculoskeletal therapy. We use a treatment called the chiropractic adjustment, which is a form of spinal joint manipulation, to restore proper movement and alignment of the bones of the spine. It is basically like hitting the reset button for tension in the body. This treatment will help reduce irritation to the spinal nerves and cause the muscles along the spine to relax.
After a chiropractic adjustment, patients often feel an immediate release of muscular stiffness and pain caused by mental stress. As a result, the patient is able to sleep better at night which is critical since we do most of our recovery and restoration while we sleep.
Q: What other advice would you recommend to those suffering from mental anxiety?
Dr Furuno: In addition to using chiropractic therapy to treat patients, I also make lifestyle recommendations to help them with stress management.
One of the most helpful things a person can do on their own is to get some vigorous exercise. When we exercise, our body releases chemicals called endorphins, which actually make us feel better mentally. There’s a reason why they are called “feel good” chemicals. Another suggestion is going for a walk outdoors. Strolling in a forest or park, or even walking along the beach, has benefits. Not only are forest surroundings oxygen-rich, being amongst the trees brings a sense of quiet and peace. The air that we breathe near the ocean is also full of iodine ions – a form of negative ions – that is good for our health.
For some, meditation and yoga, or getting involved in a hobby and other mindful activities, can be an excellent way for people to mentally decompress. Community service, volunteering and helping others is another suggestion. By helping others, we help ourselves.
Q: Personally, are there any lifestyle changes you would recommend that help reduce mental anxiety?
Dr Furuno: You may not have the option, but sometimes the best solution is to recognise and eliminate the cause of your anxiety or stress. For some, a change of job, relationship, or personal situation may be the only way to fully free oneself of their stress and anxiety. Personally, I try to always count my blessings and remind myself that life is too short to live in negativity on a daily basis.
If there is something one can do to improve their situation, even if it’s just a small positive change, this is still a step in the right direction. And if self-help stress management solutions are not proving effective, I would encourage those suffering from mental health issues not to be afraid to seek some professional assistance. We all need help sometimes. It is important to remember that you are not alone and there are people out there who sincerely want to help you!
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