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Stress, Tension and the Body

Posted 3 December 2013
Written by Steve Griffin

image of tension headachesWith the sad departure of Jonathan Trott from England’s Ashes party over the weekend, it once again raised the issue of Stress related illnesses in Sport. This got me thinking about stress and the effects is has on the body.

We all suffer stress in our everyday lives from time to time and this can/often manifest itself to some extent physically. We hear terms like tension headaches and tension in our shoulders or low back.

One of the ways I describe this to patients is using the example of the dentist! No one really enjoys a trip to the dentist, and I find myself thinking I’m relaxed with my mouth nice and wide, only to be told to open wider – it is then that I notice my fists are ‘involuntarily’ clenched tight and my knuckles white. The stress of the visit, the potential ensuing pain has caused me to increase my muscle tone and contract the muscle.

The second example performance related. We can all remember watching an Olympic sprint event and seeing someone pull up with a hamstring tear! Only for them to race in the relay 2 days later. In order for sprinters to perform maximally they need their muscles to be relaxed, in order to use the full joint range of movement. In this incident what happens is that they are not fully relaxed, the stress of the event creates tension in the muscles and then they aren’t able to ‘run freely’.

The effect this has is that over a period of time the muscle will become sore and the rigidity will put other structures and tissues under more pressure. The result is twofold, firstly the tissues may complain with this increased burden, and secondly the performance of movements will be reduced or inhibited from the max.

Either way the sooner you seek help the quicker and easier it is to help resolve before too many other tissues become affected. So why not book yourself a massage or physio treatment with us now.

Neil from Bristol who runs mountain marathons says “I didn’t realise how stress was affecting my body, it was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I walked out 2 inches taller, ready to run and live life to the full again”

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