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Chronic levels of stress can lead to detrimental effects on our bodies involving the musculoskeletal system, nervous system, cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal system, and reproductive system. Physical therapy can help with more than pain management; therapists can offer techniques to assist in decreasing chronic stress levels and add balance back into the body.

Ways physical therapy can help reduce chronic levels of stress in the body:

1.Educating Patients on the Benefits of Changing Positions Throughout the Day

Prolonged sitting can lead to deconditioning of all bodily systems, and can lead to risks such as an increase in overall mortality, a decrease in cardiovascular, psychological, and musculoskeletal health, as well as an increase in obesity. Physical therapists can educate you on ways to stand up and move throughout your day in a way that won’t interrupt your daily tasks. Some ideas involve purchasing a standing desk, walking while talking on the phone, or standing while reading a document.

2. Exercise

Physical therapists can create an exercise program specifically for you that targets not only areas of weakness or decreased mobility, but target the body as a whole. Benefits of exercise include improving psychological health and daily energy, reducing the risk of chronic disease and the risk of falls, and improving sleep.

3. Hands-on Manual Therapy

Physical therapists have been educated on many forms of manual therapy to assist with pain management, overall body mobility, and health. Physical therapists will use techniques such as massage, joint mobilization, muscle energy techniques, and other forms of therapy to assist in the impairments and functional limitations of concern. Manual therapy, when used in conjunction with other approaches, can be used to help musculoskeletal injuries, decrease anxiety, and promote relaxation throughout the body.

4. Breathing Techniques

Our breathing patterns can be controlled by a specific part of the nervous system called the autonomic nervous system. Changing our breathing patterns can help promote “rest and digest” aspects of our nervous system, and lessen the “fight or flight” response. This will help decrease overall stress in the body. Physical therapists can teach you these breathing techniques to create more balance within the nervous system, and decrease overall chronic levels of stress hormones within the body. Here are a couple of ways to practice this technique:

-Lie on your back with your knees bent, eyes closed, and palms facing the ceiling

-Change your strategy of inhaling and exhaling

-Inhale (breathe in) into the lowest part of your rib cage in your back, and fill the lower part of the lungs

-Exhale (breathe out) by letting the front of the rib cage sink towards the floor, and let all of the air out of your lungs

-Slow your breathing pattern down to allow about 6-8 breathes a minute

5. Social Benefit

Most people attend physical therapy for assistance with pain management, but what patients often find is a friendly atmosphere and conversation. Physical therapists listen to each person’s story, give advice and address as necessary, and create a setting where the patients feel comfortable and successful in their work to achieve their goals. Being in such a positive environment helps boosts the feeling of well being.