Research

The link between our mental and physical health

In the UK, more than 15 million people live with one or more long-term physical conditions.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, nearly one in three of these people living with long-term physical conditions also has a mental health problem. This is most commonly depression or anxiety.

In recent years, increased awareness around mental health problems has sparked discussion on the connection between mental and physical health. While physical and mental health are often seen as two separate things, research has shown they’re a lot more connected than you might think.

In this blog post, we explore the link between mental and physical health, and how chiropractic care may be able to help.

Common mental health conditions 

Some of the most common mental health conditions include: 

Anxiety 

The main symptom of an anxiety disorder is excessive worry or fear that interferes with your daily life. Difficulty controlling worry is another common symptom. A person with anxiety may also have trouble concentrating or sleeping, and feel restless all the time. Some physical symptoms of anxiety are dizziness, heart palpitations, and muscle aches.

Depression 

Depression can make you feel consistently low or lose pleasure in things that you used to find enjoyable. Alongside a feeling of hopelessness, people living with depression can also struggle to sleep. This can cause irritability and a loss of energy. Physical symptoms of depression include a loss of appetite and unexplained aches and pains. Depression often causes people to experience feelings of anxiety, and you can even develop an anxiety disorder from untreated depression. In fact, mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental health condition in Britain, affecting 7.8% of the population.

Stress 

Most people experience stress at some point in their lives. However, living with chronic stress can negatively affect your mental and physical health if untreated. Stress can cause you to become easily agitated and overwhelmed, which may lead to low self-esteem or feelings of depression. Some physical symptoms of stress include headaches, muscle tension, and a fast heartbeat. You may also experience stomach problems and nausea.

How are mental and physical health linked? 

Research shows that mental health problems can significantly increase the chance of developing a physical health problem, and vice versa. Mental health plays a large role in our overall well-being. When we are struggling with feelings of low mood or stress, our bodies can be impacted in various ways. Studies show that stress is responsible for increasing the risk of, or worsening many health problems, including diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, asthma, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Trouble falling or staying asleep is another symptom that often appears as a result of anxiety or stress. It is well-known that sleep deficiency can increase the risk of developing health problems, as a good night’s rest allows your body and brain to recover during the night. Lack of sleep can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke.

Stress can also cause tension in the body, which in turn may result in headaches, or pain in your muscles and joints. On the opposite side, living with a long-term physical condition can often lead to low mood, low self-esteem, and stress. This can make you more likely to develop a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety.

How to manage your health 

Good nutrition 

Eating well is a key factor in changing the way we feel both physically and mentally. By eating a balanced diet we are giving our bodies the fuel it needs to stay healthy and strong. The NHS recommends eating at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day and drinking plenty of fluids. What’s more, these nutrients can also influence the development, management and prevention of numerous mental health or neurological conditions, such as depression, anxiety and dementia. If you feel down in the winter or after being cooped up indoors, you may also want to consider Vitamin D3 supplementation to boost calcium levels which help both physical and mental function.

Keeping active 

There are many reasons why exercise is good for our body. Benefitting our heart, and improving our joints and bones are just two of these. Exercise also prevents your risk of developing health problems by improving your circulation and lowering blood pressure.

Not only is physical activity good for your body, but it has been shown to boost your mood and relieve tension and stress. When you exercise, your body releases feel-good chemicals in the brain that trigger a positive feeling. These chemicals – called endorphins – can also help with concentration, improve sleep and help you to feel more confident. If you struggle with mobility, exercise can be a great way to build muscle strength, reducing the risk of falls. But keeping active doesn’t have to be regular visits to a gym or stringent exercise regimes; gentle activity such as light gardening, walking or yoga can be just as beneficial for your wellbeing. Prolonged sitting has been directly linked to poorer mental health and a host of other health problems from spinal pain to diabetes and some cancers.

Get support 

If you’re struggling with your physical or mental health, there are a number of ways you can reach out for support. 

Speaking to close friends and family about your worries can be a good way to relieve stress. This also provides your loved ones with an opportunity to support you. You can find support groups online or in your local community, which lets you connect with other people living with the same condition.

If you’re looking for further support or are experiencing physical pain, make an appointment with a GP to discuss your symptoms. You could also book a session with a counsellor. Counselling can be a great way to change how you think and feel, and this process may be able to help you manage your symptoms better. We have a counselling service available at our Beaminster clinic and a network of mental health professionals with whom we work locally.

How Chiropractic care can help 

Chiropractic care involves a mind-body approach that treats individuals holistically. Chiropractors are trained in psychology as well as orthopaedics and many undertake postgraduate training to better understand the full impact of mental health on recovery from physical injury. This allows us to look at all possible ways to make you feel better. Chiropractic care aims to find the right balance between your mind and body.

We’re trained to look at multiple health areas, including manipulation, mobilisation, exercise, lifestyle advice, diet and nutritional supplements. When it comes to delivering an individualised package of care, no stone goes unturned. Even small lifestyle changes can have a positive impact on your physical and mental health.

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