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Stress and Your Body: Muscle and Joint Pain

By Elizabeth Eckert

Stress has the power to literally re-shape your skeleton. You may think of bones as "those hard things that don’t change," but unfortunately, they do. There are several factors that influence the process, which we’ll explore briefly in this article.

Stress and Congestion

Stress causes a state of congestion around your major organs. Traditional Chinese Medicine associates 5 primary emotional states (anger, joy, worry, grief, fear) with each of 5 major organs (liver, heart, spleen, lungs, kidneys). An energy imbalance - stress, to us - around any of the major organ systems restricts the natural flow of energy around those organs.

This congestion results in less free movement of the organ itself and the tissue around it, including muscles and connective tissue. Over time, congestion and lack of movement produces changes in your muscular tissue. Stagnant tissue becomes hard and fibrous. It can’t move freely, which ultimately leads to its becoming even harder and tighter.

Stress and Connective Tissue

Current scientific thought suggests that connective tissue is an important part of your body’s communication network. Connective tissue is a single matrix that envelops your body. It connects your skin to your muscles and surrounds even your smallest muscle fibers. It surrounds your organs, separates the cavities in your head, cushions your joints – it’s nearly everywhere. Connective tissue appears to be part of the network that transports both stress hormones and electromagnetic energy through your body. If the tissue loses elasticity as a result of mental or emotional stress, then it’s not difficult to see how this would affect your muscles, bones, and joints.

Soft Tissue and Your Body’s Bony Structure

Your skeleton responds to the force applied to it by your muscles and gravity. A principle known as "Wolff’s Law of Bone Transformation" says that bone tissue responds to the force being applied to it. In other words, your bones change shape as a result of mechanical stress. When a misalignment in your body occurs, several things happen. Your muscles complain in an attempt to get you to correct the situation. You experience this as muscle tightness or pain. If you are unable to resolve the mechanical stress, your bones will change shape to accommodate it. Ultimately, the parts of your body receiving the greatest amount of inappropriate pressure begin to wear out.

Stress, Posture, and Pain

We are exploring the process that causes your body to develop a dysfunctional posture. Stress, whether physical, mental, or emotional, acts on the soft tissues of your body – the muscles and connective tissue. Muscles connect to the bones and, when imbalanced or tighter than normal, cause them to move out of their proper position in space.

If the situation continues unresolved, your bones begin to change shape. Your joints wear out more quickly than normal. The integrity of the discs in your back and neck may be challenged. You experience back pain, neck pain, headaches, abdominal distress, and often, generalized pain throughout the body. You also begin to look older than your chronological age in years.
Stress is a major contributor to a number of challenging health conditions, including muscle and joint pain. Sometimes it seems like a lot of trouble to address the stresses and strains of day-to-day life. Yet clearly not resolving life stress creates its own set of challenges.

Elizabeth Eckert can help you explore how simple everyday choices create health - or undermine even the best of intentions. With a background that ranges from energy medicine to structural bodywork to developmental psychology, this "Stick-To-It Coach" has the experience to support you in creating the healthiest possible expression of - you! This article was excerpted from her e-book, Stress In The Background: How to Thrive in a High-Stress World. Take a deep breath and check it out!

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