Part 4: How Stress Influences Disease and Inflammation
Before we can understand how our brain stress coping mechanism prevents us from curing plantar fasciitis…
…we need to understand how the brain influences the body:
Let’s start with a question:
How do the brain and body interact and influence each other?
Think of it this way: thoughts, emotions, and other patterns of mental activity are physical activities in the brain.
Consider the simple case of pain we just explored:
Pain occurs when a stimulus activates receptors in the body, which sends an electrical signal to the brain.
Then this signal causing neural activity that is associated with the mental experience of pain.
Pain is a clear example of the causal influence that the body has on the brain and vice-versa.
Now let’s take this “brain-body” connection one step further:
It does not take a scientist to point out that people feel physically better when they also feel mentally well.
And also that people feel physically worse when they feel mentally unwell.
Several life events can cause high amounts of stress and mental turmoil that can have a serious effect on physical health.
These events include:
- Death of a loved one
- Financial hardship
- Illness or injury
- Marriage and divorce
- Having or adopting a child
- Moving to an unfamiliar place
All of these events are drastic life changes that can affect mental health and cause undesirable changes in the body.
But in today’s world, we don’t need a drastic life change to be stressful.
In our fast-paced multitasking world, the day-to-day lives are full of stress.
Add on top of that the frustration and stress that plantar fasciitis is alone causing…
It creates a situation with some critical health implications.
Actually, it’s what prevents us from curing our plantar fasciitis and
blocking the given treatments as well. (Together with the pain management mechanism)
By causing our body to lose its ability to cope with inflammation.
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have found that stress is causing the body to lose its ability to regulate the inflammatory response. (Source)
And therefore, losing its ability to regulate the inflammation of the plantar fascia.
As you probably know:
“Plantar fasciitis involves inflammation of a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes (plantar fascia).” – Mayo Clinic
Here’s how it happens (quote from CMU):
Inflammation is partly regulated by the hormone cortisol.
Prolonged stress alters the effectiveness of cortisol to regulate the inflammatory response because it decreases tissue sensitivity to the hormone.
Specifically, immune cells become insensitive to cortisol’s regulatory effect.
In turn, runaway inflammation is thought to promote the development and progression of many diseases.”
And that’s simply how it prevents your body from regulating the inflammation of the plantar fascia.
Let’s quickly recap:
The two types of mechanisms that damaging the ability of our body to recover from plantar fasciitis are:
- Pain management mechanism (Pain sensitivity & Central sensitization)
- Stress management mechanism (Stress – Inflammation relationship)
As we mentioned, our brain is responsible for these two.
But the problem is that we can’t just get rid of them. We need these mechanisms to survive.
Our brain is using them to protect us.
By trying to protect us, our brain is keeping us in pain.
Let’s complete the illustration I presented earlier. Here’s how it looks:
Here you can clearly see that no matter what treatment you’ll try. If you won’t remove this barrier first, plantar fasciitis will keep coming back again and again.
Now there are good news and bad news:
The bad news is that our own brain is the problem. It’s what keeps us living with plantar fasciitis.
The good news is that our own brain is the solution too…
By working directly on our brain, (using three simple exercises) we can reverse this situation and get this barrier out of our way.
Let’s learn how.