How our body responds to trauma

Trauma comes in various forms – from a physical injury to a distressing emotional experience. In any case, trauma challenges our system and activates defensive mechanisms in our mind and body. When the intensity of trauma is too great, then these defences are overwhelmed and collapse, with potentially serious consequences for our wellbeing.

Let’s focus our discussion on more minor trauma, of the type we experience fairly commonly in our daily life. We may be subjected to repetitive micro-trauma from repeated strenuous movements at work, some more obvious (macro-) trauma from the occasional sports impact or fall, or some emotional trauma from conflicts with those around us.

As discussed in another article on emotions, body tissues store excessive emotional energy, resulting in abnormal tension and restriction. When physical trauma occurs, there is an immediate pain reaction. Besides, some of the mechanical energy of trauma gets stored in the affected tissues. Hence, our tissues retain in their very structure the memory of physical trauma. This memory adds itself to the memories of past stresses and diseases, all of which are affecting the vitality of our tissues, and thus our health.

To a trained hand, the changes brought about by trauma are particularly noticeable in bone. Despite what most people may think, living bone has some fluidity to it. When impacted by significant trauma, it becomes markedly more rigid. This is how Osteopaths can sometimes pick up injuries that were sustained by their patients decades ago.

Whether from trauma or another cause, abnormal tissue tension and reduced tissue mobility result in some loss of function. This triggers an adaptive response, with other structures trying to compensate for the loss of function. Compensating is something our body is really good at doing! But we also need to support it by keeping the cumulative stress placed on it as low as possible. It is when we impose too much on our body (e.g. cumulating physical traumas, eating a poor diet and being overwhelmed by stress) that we exhaust its compensatory ability and may suddenly start experiencing pain at the site of an old injury that we had almost completely forgotten about.

 

Originally written by Nicolas Roost for LiveBeingFit (www.livebeingfit.com)

2017-08-28T22:35:30+00:00 August 28th, 2017|Osteopathy|