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Can Emotions Affect Your Spine?

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Doing your best to nurture your mental and physical health can keep your spine happy.

Can Emotions Affect Your Spine?


When we explain that physical, chemical and emotional stress is the underlying cause of subluxations, many wonder how emotions can cause spinal misalignments. Yet, our language reveals some common connections.

“I just can’t stand it.”
“He’s a real pain in the neck.”
“My feet are killing me.”

Our emotions are linked to the meaning we give to situations or circumstances.

For example, for some of us, the sight of a snake produces fear or aversion. But for others, the same snake is a beautiful reptile to be picked up and held—two very different emotional responses to the same thing!

The Fight or Flight Response

The relationship is complex, but simply put, when we become stressed, our body releases a hormone called cortisol, influencing muscle tension throughout the body.

When muscles supporting the spine tighten, they can misalign spinal bones, affecting the spinal cord and adjacent nerve roots exiting the spine. After all, bones don’t move unless acted on by muscles, and muscles don’t contract unless commanded by the nervous system.

No matter how we interpret our stressors, there are ways we can gain better control and turn the tide. Here are 3 ways to get started:

1. Take 2 minutes to name the stressors. Jot them down, one per line, on a piece of paper. Next to each, write either “C” (I have control over this) or “N/C” (I have no control over this). Set it aside and at your first opportunity get to those you can control. Taking a step in the right direction puts you in the driver’s seat.

2. Do you have a “go to” friend who always makes you feel better? I have long held that a good laugh is like a mini re-set!

3. Take 2 slow, deep breaths. Pay attention to the gap between the breaths and reset your mind and body.

Our emotional health also affects our immune system, increasing our susceptibility to colds and infections during or following emotionally difficult times. And while regular chiropractic care won’t eliminate stress, it may help you to better accommodate it.

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