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Too hot to handle!!

One of the games we used to play as children was “hot potato”. If you are the right age, you likely remember the game yourself. We would all stand in a circle and one of us would have a ball. The ball was the “potato”, and the object was to get the “hot potato” out of your hands and into the hands of another person in the circle as quickly as possible. If you threw it wildly or if you dropped the ball, you were out of the game.

Now, as adults when we grab something hot, it becomes like a hot potato to us. Our bodies react to stress the same way. The reflex is to get rid of a stress (hot item) as fast as possible. The nerve endings in your hand flash the sensation of heat to your brain in a millisecond and in the next millisecond the brain sends a signal to the muscles of the hand to drop the hot item. All of us will react exactly the same way. The response is predictable. Predictability of responses occurs in many other of the body’s reactions to a stimulus and that is the topic of today’s blog.

Today I want to explore these responses and how they tie in with health issues that we develop but do not understand how we got. I want to also talk about inflammation and how it has been given an undeserved bad name. Finally, I want to talk about how stress plays a role in all of this as well as how stress is the key to inciting the inflammatory issue.

When a patient presents to my office, I want to know why they are there, what abilities they have lost, and I want to know how the problem started. In my more than 40 years of practice my experience has been that most patients really cannot state the cause of their problem. This is a signal to me that I need to dig a bit deeper to find that cause. In order for my care to be the most effective I need to treat the specific tissue that has failed and repair the damage to that tissue. I also need to know what happened to start the problem so we can find ways to prevent that problem from occurring again in the future and restore any lost function to the patient.

We review the patient’s family medical history, social history, what the patient does at work, as well as what they enjoy doing at home. We discuss their past medical history and then I like to look at their current list of medications. The medication list is often the biggest indicator of how the patient developed their presenting health problem. I think an analogy will work to show you what I mean.

Picture yourself driving through an unfamiliar, poorly lit, and not so comforting location late at night when your car breaks down. You release the hood latch and get out of the car to examine the engine. As you are lifting the hood of the car you feel a gun barrel being shoved into your ribs and you hear a voice say, “Give me all your money!” You are about to have the biggest, most epic, predictable response to stress on the planet.

First of all, your eyes will open wide (when you think about the event later it will seem like it was in slow motion because of this reaction). Your heart will race, and your breathing will become short and shallow. This happens because your body excreted a chemical known as adrenaline that caused this reaction and the adrenaline also helps your muscles work harder and faster. This is very helpful in the event you must run. Your body will release another chemical that will cause you to release as much of the stored glucose (sugar) into your blood stream as is readily available. Glucose is the fuel for the muscles that likely will be called upon to become activated soon. Another chemical that will be released in large amounts into your blood stream is cholesterol. Cholesterol is used by the body to patch rips, tears, and holes in the arteries and veins. This is helpful so you don’t bleed out if you are cut during this emergency.

Your body is focused on survival and the most important organs for survival are brain, heart, and lungs. In these events your body will stop your immune system and your digestive system since they are not necessary for your immediate survival. You will even expel excess weight so you can run faster meaning you will soil your pants and drain your bladder immediately.

The really interesting part is that this all happens before you draw your next breath. This is the protective response that happens automatically to stress in the body. The fact of the matter is your brain cannot tell the difference between types of stress. It can differentiate between levels of stress but not types of stress. In other words, your brain can not tell the difference between emotional stress, financial stress, physical stress, and dietary stress. The reaction will be the same but to varying degrees of intensity. So why does your medication history help us in determining how you developed a problem that brought you to the chiropractor?

Just like when you have elevated blood sugar levels for too long you develop insulin intolerance (diabetes),

the prolonged stress reaction can have other detrimental effects on your body as well. We all know the effects of too much cholesterol or too rapid of a heartbeat that is sustained for too long.

When the patient lists for me all their medications and they have meds for diabetes, high cholesterol, heart issues, bowel issues, and of course anxiety and/or depression I know they are having a prolonged “hot potato” response. A prolonged stress response. This response can also end up causing muscular imbalances, postural changes, and structural adaptations that will lead to pain. That pain is due to the inflammatory response that occurs when there has been damage done anywhere in the body either from direct trauma or as a result of a stress reaction. In our next blog we will examine inflammation and learn how it can be a hero or a villain.

Be sure to follow us on Face Book @kirkweberchiropractor. If you have comments or questions, please email them to , message me from the message button on the website home page, or used the email form from this website, and I will answer your questions as soon as possible.

40 views2 comments


Osark The Goat
Osark The Goat
Nov 21, 2021

looking forward to the next post!

Kirk W Weber DC
Kirk W Weber DC
Nov 22, 2021
Replying to

going to try to gte one per week. I want to try to tie my social media posts to the weekly blog. going for some continuity.

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