Defense Posture & Stress Physiology

defense posture
Despite considerable evidence that posture affects Physiology and function, the significant influence of posture on health is not addressed by most physicians. In fact, neither comprehensive postural nor structural evaluation is a routine part of training in physical diagnosis, and most osteopathic physicians do not describe postural/spinal mechanics in their usual patient evaluations.
Observation of the striking influence of postural mechanics on function and symptomatology have led to our hypothesis that *posture affects and moderates every physiologic function from breathing to hormonal production. Spinal pain, headache, mood, blood pressure, pulse, and lung capacity are among the functions most easily influenced by posture. The most significant influences of posture are upon respiration, oxygenation, and sympathetic function. Ultimately, it appears that homeostasis and autonomic regulation are intimately connected with posture. The corollary of these observations is that many symptoms, including pain, may be moderated or eliminated by improved posture. from Postural and Respiratory Modulation of Autonomic Function, Pain & Health. John Lennon, BM, MM, C. Norman Shealy, MD, Roger Cady, MD, William Matta, PhD, Richard Cox, PhD, and William F. Simpson, PhD (American Journal of Pain Management) 1994; 4:36-39
Every moment our brain assesses the world around us and asks one question: Am I safe? If at any moment the brain determines you are in danger, it sends out an alert to the body and the fight-or-flight stress response occurs. Mechanisms of survival are activated by the Brain Stem to prepare you to face the situation or run away/avoid or disconnect. The response will occur during such times as: traumatic birth, abuse, physical trauma, work related stress, relationship issues, or overuse of drugs/medication. It occurs any time the brain determines danger!Here is how your body responds during the stress response.
  • adrenalin is released (provides more energy)
  • blood sugar elevates (provides more energy)
  • blood pressure rises (provides more oxygen to muscles)
  • pulse increases (provides more oxygen to muscles)
  • muscles tense (provides readiness for action)
  • pupils dilate (see more in less light)
  • immunity, digestion and sexual function diminish (These three functions use lots of energy and are not necessary for immediate survival.)
  • metabolism slows down
These are all appropriate responses for survival. However, once the danger is gone and the stress is over, these body functions should return to a state of balance and the body should move into a state of harmony. If these stressful events remain unresolved, we may live in a constant state of fear, anger, resentment, etc., putting great stress on organs and affecting our mental/emotional state. The emotional brain center, limbic system, then sends a message to the brain stem to maintain the stress response to keep us safe, just in case such a situation ever happens again. Over time, this develops into what is called defense posture, evidenced by such observation as: hunched shoulders, neck jutting forward, tightness in jaw, and sway back. When the body and brain are locked in stress physiology and defense posture, we react as if the stress that caused it is still occurring, even though it may be decades in our past. In this state, health and healing are more difficult to access, and our quality of life and degree of wellness greatly diminishes. Not only does this affect us physically, it effects us emotionally and mentally as well. Through the levels of Network Chiropractic care, you can develop more advanced, appropriate responses to your life by turning the defense switch to on only when needed. While not in defense, the body/mind can respond to its environment with greater ease, and employ those strategies which promote higher intelligence, growth, and healing.

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