Being grounded, mindful, joyful, curious, empathetic, & compassionate through Chiropractic
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Being grounded, mindful, joyful, curious, empathetic, & compassionate through Chiropractic

The nervous system uses 3 strategies (the polyvagal theory) to face stressful situations that we may experience:

Fight or Flight 
Collapse or Immobilization (Freeze)
Engagement and Connection


Fight or Flight
Our sympathetic nervous system is intelligently programmed to react to stressful events, like an attack from a sabre tooth tiger. Today we will not likely come face-to-face with a wild animal, however the brain does not discern the difference between an attack and daily physical, chemical & emotional stresses.

Under stress hormones are released resulting in many bodily changes. Our heart & respiratory rates increase to supply oxygenated blood to our muscles so we can fight or flee.  Sugar and fat are released into the blood for quick energy.  We experience heightened attention (vigilance), looking for an escape route, yet we are unable to add new ideas into long-term memory because we are just trying to survive. Our digestion & immune system slow down to conserve energy. The libido decreases because it would not be a good time to procreate.

This is a healthy and normal response when the threatening event is short lived, if we burn off the energy produced and if the stress goes away when the event ends. Think of this reaction as a yellow traffic light.

Indeed, this is a warning zone; depending on the frequency, impact and handling of the situation, the nervous system may return to the zone of engagement and connection (resiliency), or move into a chronic stress state. In the latter, the normal physiological reactions that were necessary to handle stress may become pathologic:

  • High blood pressure and racing heart/breath
  • Unhealthy blood sugar and fat levels
  • Attention deficit, learning disabilities
  • Weakened immune system, slower healing
  • Slow digestion
  • Tight muscles
  • Decreased access to the logical, reasoning brain, increased time spent in survival brain

Collapse or Immobilization (Freeze)
Another strategy to acute stress is to freeze or play dead, like a mouse.  Think of a red traffic light because here the body is shutting down.

In this zone, one may experience:

  • The feeling of no longer feeling connected to your body & emotions
  • A sagging of  posture (decreased muscle tone)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Depression/exhaustion
  • Sluggish immunity, digestion and libido

Engagement and connection

This is our optimal state and ideally we would spend most of our time here. We are calm, fit, connected with others and aware of our emotions.

This area is the green traffic light. The one that allows us to enjoy life to its fullest.

Stress causes tension in the nervous system as we see in fight/flight/freeze.  This results in vertebral subluxation (like a circuit breaker protecting the system that has a high demand).  Vertebral subluxation causes more tension in the nervous system. Chiropractic ‘resets’ the nervous system so that the brain can realize that the original threat is no longer present.  Normal physiology ensues. As chiropractors we also offer support to reduce lifestyle stresses so that the nervous system is not continually reactivated into Fight/Flight/Freeze responses and thereby allow you to enjoy your “Green Zone”.

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