How stress affects the heart
Saul Yudelowitz BSc (Hons)
This article places emphasis on the physical connections that have been less studied while the physiological effects are well established.
In order to understand how stress physically influences the rest of the body we need to look at the deep fascia. There is a continuous facial web that runs from the arch of the feet to the jaw via the hips, splitting into two parts and then merging again running up the front of the spine. The first part ascends from the medial knees, over the Ischial ramus, connecting the pelvic floor to the anterior sacral and lumbar vertebra. From here the two separate lines merge again and ascend the upper lumbar vertebra, behind the diaphragm and importantly blending in with the fascia of the pericardium, mediastinum and parietal pleura. They both continue up to the jaw on a similar path.
The second part travels from the Lesser trochanter of the Femur, blending in with the fascia of the Psoas and up the anterior part of the spine to end at the jaw. To keep the article simple the description of these fascia have been greatly simplified.
As a baby learning movement, we copy our parents, we literally learn how to move this way and this is the reason that the biomechanics of the offspring are very similar to their parents. We therefore learn the strengths and weaknesses of the manner in which our parents move. Just because one can walk it does not mean that one is walking correctly or efficiently. Not falling over and maintaining balance is an indication that the nervous system is working correctly and this is where the definition of walking comes from. A controlled manner of loosing and regaining balance in a cyclical motion.
The point of this is that we teach ourselves to fire muscles in a particular manner which causes facial tightness in a specific area of the body. Since overpronation is so common in the developed and underdeveloped world and the facial chain starts at the arch of the foot, our foot biomechanics play a big part in the functioning of the pelvic floor, cardiovascular physiology, breathing, mastication and head orientation.
As we get stressed we tighten up the muscles that we have made strong, 70% of the worlds population will have an issue with the functionality of this chain as their arches are collapsed to different degrees. When we tighten up this facial chain the pericardium which a basically a bag that contains the heart is compressed. This will have an affect on the heart. Our heart rate would not increase but the force of contraction would. This is rather easy to experience. In your minds eye, see yourself at work. A work collage for whatever reason is annoying you and as a result you become stressed. Sometimes you can feel your heart beating when you are sitting at your desk. This is not because the rate of the heart beat has increases as when exercising like running but because the force on the contraction has increased. This increase in the force of contraction will increase the pressure in the system and since the cardiovascular system is a closed pressurised system an increase in force of contraction leads to an increase in blood pressure. Some people have experienced an increase in blood pressure when stressed at work. Others have gone to the doctor due to palpitations in the chest area.
The affects donít end here, as the lungs are affected by this fascia as well we change the manner in which we breath. As the bags that surround the lungs get more compressed we tend to breath in a shallow manner which increases the sympathetic drive and a release of the stress hormones like Cortisol and Adrenaline. The Adrenaline will assist in breathing but at a cost of the function of other organs. As the fascia come up to meet the jaw, tight muscles typically lead to people grinding the teeth when stressed. This tight facial sling will also pull the head forward relative to the spine thereby contributing to more stress and less functionality of the organs. It is rather common to see a stressed person sitting in a slouched posture. The heart, lungs, gastrointestinal tract and upper spine all get compressed by this type of posture. We donít see stressed people sitting upright with correct posture.
I have two examples to show the significance of stress on visceral function. Some people are aware of the Alexander technique of correcting posture. Mr Alexander was initially an actor; he didnít succeed at his chosen career because he could not project his voice. Doctors could not help him so he found a logical solution to his problem. He observed actors who could project their voice. This is how he learnt about posture. Eastern medicine also has a few lessons to teach Western medicine. The idea of chi or energy movement through the body is very important. In the East one method of addressing this is with Acupuncture. We know that energy is never destroyed so when we have an area of tight muscle the energy cant flow to different parts of the body and so this energy is absorbed. Compression of the pericardium in the above example is the absorption of energy.
If you have understood this article, which requires you to think you will be able to see that our posture has a significant affect on the mobility and motility of the viscera. It does not mean that if you correct your foot biomechanics you shall never get ill. Health is the ability to use energy efficiently while maintaining a reserve should additional adaptation be required. The merger of weastern and Eastern medicine is the future of health.
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