Emotional Trauma and the Physical Effects on the Body

5 days ago by Christina Edwards

Any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed, frightened or helpless can result in a trauma, even if it doesn’t involve a threat to life or physical harm. Emotional trauma can be caused by a one-time event such as an accident or violent attack or an ongoing, relentless stress such as domestic violence or battling a life-threatening illness. Commonly overlooked causes of trauma include the breakup of a significant relationship, the sudden death of a loved one or a humiliating experience.

When we feel stressed or threatened, the brain’s alarm system turns on, partially shutting down our conscious mind whilst it prepares the body to fight, run or freeze. It’s an automatic response which we have no control over. Our adrenal glands release adrenaline, speeding up our heart rate and increasing blood pressure to push blood into our muscles for quick action. By the time we become fully cognisant of our surroundings and situation, our body may already be on the move. If we are successful in escaping the danger, stress hormones abate, the body returns to its natural equilibrium and we slowly come to our senses.

Prolonged stress can damage a part in our brain that houses our emotions and memory (the hippocampus). Studies have shown that the brain may continue sending stress signals to the body to escape a threat long after the trauma is over. As a result, your body may become sensitised and hypervigilant even if the you’re not consciously thinking of the traumatic event.

The musculoskeletal processes which are initiated during the fight or flight response may be agitated and exacerbated to the point of physical pain when our stress response stays locked on for long periods. The rounded shoulders you adopt when you’re about to throw a punch can lead to neck and shoulder pain if your stress mode is locked on. The tightening of the muscles in the back of your legs and buttocks in preparation to run away, may result in knee, hip and low back pain if these muscles are continually firing in response to a subconscious reminder of a trauma.

Chiropractic care can not only address pain and dysfunction in the physical body, it also restores neurological function. Think of chiropractic adjustments as balancing the EQ levels of your brain and nervous system – it eliminates distortion, returning the system to optimal function with clear signals.

Listen to our latest Podcast "Supporting People Who Have Experienced Trauma" by clicking here.


Dr Christina Edwards MChiro

Chiropractors are trained to diagnose, treat, manage and prevent disorders of the musculoskeletal system (bones, joints, and muscles), as well as the effects these disorders can have on the nervous system and general health.