Mind-body techniques

How does stress affect the body?

Changes, such as increased blood pressure, pulse and respiratory rate, and contraction of muscles, occur in the body when it is under stress. This is commonly referred to as the stress response or fight or flight reaction, and is a healthy, normal reaction. However, when the stress response continues unchecked, these changes become detrimental, eventually leading to chronic and sustained stress resulting in a variety of illnesses or chronic pain.

Throughout the day, stress may manifest itself in the body by cold hands or tense, aching and sore muscles resulting in headache, backache, irritable bowel, etc. Over a period of time tense muscles may develop tender "trigger points" causing pain elsewhere in the body, which is called "referred pain." This results in increased tension that, in turn, increases the pain perpetuating a vicious cycle of stress and pain.

  • cold hands
  • headaches
  • neck and shoulder muscle tension
  • unrefreshing, disrupted sleep cycle
  • irritability, anxiety, frustration
  • difficulty relaxing
  • difficulty concentrating
  • short-term memory problems
  • feeling easily fatigued
  • changes in weight
  • changes in appetite
  • excessive perspiration
  • skin outbreaks
  • heart palpitations
  • recurrent flu and colds
  • overreacting to minor problems
  • unable to experience joy

How biofeedback helps

Biofeedback helps you to develop an awareness of the changes in your body when you are under stress. For example, you may notice that your hands are cold, that you have butterflies and/or knots in your stomach or you may feel tightness in your jaw, neck, shoulders or chest. The equipment used in biofeedback treatment provides you with constant, moment-to-moment information about what is going on in your body as you practice relaxation techniques.

Once a technique is learned, you will become aware of the subtle signals of tension in your body by practicing quick body scanning. This information enables you to take necessary measures to reduce, eliminate and prevent the tension from being stored in your body. The more tense a muscle is, the more time it will take to relax and return to its original state. The longer a symptom has persisted, the longer it may take to bring that symptom under control.

Lynda Thorson, RN, and Zenona Hrabar, MD 
in association with the MediResource Clinical Team