How can mental condition affect our health?

CLBolestiHlavyDo you also have health problems that regularly return and you don’t know why? Whether you believe it or not, the source of your problems can be your psychological condition and presence of a long-term stress. How is it possible? Let’s look at it together.

PSYCHOLOGY - SOURCE OF PHYSICAL DIFFICULTIES

It is typical that our health problems arise from the basis of improper movement behavior, incorrect body posture, overloading certain parts of our body or from injuries. But we shouldn’t leave out our mental condition, which in result can cause similar problems, if not with a greater impact.

The importance of psychosomatic medicine is rising in this decade (field dealing with the physical problems which are conditioned by the mental condition) as well as holistic approach (complexive approach towards physical and mental health in context of interpersonal relationships, life activities and environment). The so called biopsychosocial model of personality is also taken in account, it simply means, the heath is not only depending on the the health care, but also on the lifestyle, environment in which the person lives, and economical-social circumstances.

Human body and psychology are closely interlinked. We assume that the initial cause of beginning of most diseases is a biological factor (long-term one-sided pressure or short-term inconvenient physical effort), during which pain is manifesting. When we add psychological factors to the painful condition (tendency for depression, anxiety…) or social (problems at work, family), the problems can become chronic, and standard treatment becomes ineffective.

ACUTE PSYCHOLOGICAL REACTION TO STRESS

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Psychology is a strong factor, as you already know. Sensing the world and angle of view of looking at the problems determine the path, the way we perceive our lives and everything that is happening in it. You have surely went through stressful situation. What did you physically feel? Perhaps you didn’t feel much, or you weren’t aware of your body at all. Strong psychological perception activates hormonal system, which releases adrenaline in order for the organism to cope with the stress situation. Adrenaline and catabolites activate many processes in the body as an accompanying phenomenon. Without really realizing it, our heartbeat frequency speeds up, our blood pressure increases, in order for our muscles to be supplied with oxygen, so that they would be ready for action. Breathing speeds up. Sweating appears, and it is 5 more times intensive than during normal warm up. The muscles reflexively increase their tension and react with stiffness. Time perception becomes complicated. Furthermore, symptoms such as anxiety, anger or despair appear. It is a temporary reaction to psychological or physical stress, which normally fades away within few hours or days. These symptoms of psychological stress are a result of negative or even too positive perception. Just as some physiological processes are pleasant for us, the ones aroused from negative emotions and stress can be potentially dangerous. There can be many reasons, for example reaction to a natural disaster, difficult situation in family or at work, loss of close person, alternately expecting such situation.

Truth is, physical health affects our mental well-being, which is well known. “Sound in body, sound in mind” isn’t said for nothing. And it goes both ways, so it is important to think about it.

PSYCHOSOMATIC DISORDER AND HOW CAN IT GO?

This reaction can distort organ function. Based on the negative psychological impulses, stomach ulcers can form, heart attack, high blood pressure and many more.

Concerning the musculoskeletal system, did you know that up to 80% of chronic back pain is a result of psychological stress? The fact, that psychological tension can affect the muscle tensions was already mentioned above. Remaining tension doesn’t benefit the muscles, it forces them to shorten and its forming reflexive changes - trigger points. Change in the tension can in some areas cause blockages of the intervertebral joints and ribs. These problems can affect the process of breathing, which is burdened. Problems are only adding up in a chain reaction, until there is some serious structural problem. Psychological basis contains many problems, in this context for example pain in the cervical spine connected with headaches, buzzing or ringing in the ears, stiff feeling and restricted movement in cervical spine, alternately tingling in hands. Breathing problems may occur as well (dyspnea), inability to fully breathe or breathe out. Then there are typical disorders such as pain in the sacrum connected with stiffness sensation in the lumbar area. Tingling or burning can also occur in legs. Digestion problems as well as sexual disorders can occur. Women can have problems with irregular menstruation and inability to get pregnant. Men on the other hand usually feel pain in the testicles or have urinating disorders.

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HOW TO DEAL WITH IT?

All of these mentioned somatic problems in return affect our mood, and same problems appear as well as new problems. Everyone can find answer how to get out of this vicious cycle. The problem is usually in constant working, which we also bring into our personal life, and that creates problems in this area as well. We are practically not able to slow down and relax. Regeneration and resting is necessary for correct muscle functioning, it is essential factor for our mental health. Releasing the tension and ventilating stress is nowadays often times complicated, or even impossible, and we have to learn to remind ourselves of it after some time.

There are many ways how to get rid of stress. You probably know what makes you feel good and what suits you best. Someone likes to compensate psychological stress with a physical activity, during which they have to concentrate just on that activity, or they don’t need to concentrate at all. Some individuals use breathing exercises which are very pleasant for resting and balancing the tension. Others prefer to relax in sauna or massage, which helps to remove the harmful substances from the muscles and you can forget all the worries. Also find some time for yourself which you will dedicate to your thoughts. Realize that no one can make your life better than you yourself. You just have to decide. It won’t cost you anything and you can only help your health.

THERAPY OPTIONS

If you have problems in the psychosomatic area, psychotherapy would be optional. Although physiotherapy has also wide spectrum of application in this field.

Relaxing techniques are usually applied. They help to relieve the physical and psychological tension, and balance the breathing.

  • Kinesthesia - trying to realize the physical scheme by using your own body (Feldenkrais method, Alexander method, yoga etc… work with this technique).
  • Autosuggestion - this technique consists of repeating positive statements. It is used in yoga as well as in Alexander method.
  • Ideomotor training - this technique is based on active psychical work, working on imagination. When trying to picture the ideas, you attempt to create positive solution of a problem.

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CONCLUSION

The relationship between the illness and psychic is often times evident. Researches have proved that in case of vertebrogenic disorders (back pain) the deciding factor by more than 50% of patients was psychosocial factor. Treating just the physical factor is insufficient. It is important for the approach to be complexive, which involves change of perspective about yourself and world, as well as thinking positively.

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Author: 
FYZIOklinka physiotherapy Ltd., Prague, Czech Republic

Source: KOLÁŘ, P. a kol. Rehabilitace v klinické praxi. 1. vyd. Praha: Galén, 2009, 713 s. ISBN 978-80-7262-657-1
MOSTECKÁ, D. Bolest zad jako psychosomatické onemocnění: thesis name. Praha: Univerzita Karlova, 3. lékařská fakulta, 2006.

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