The effects of stress on your body

Written by: Ashley Yartin, MS, LAT, ATC at Raleigh Orthopaedic Performance Center

Insomnia. Migraines. Stomach Discomfort. What do these three conditions have in common? Besides being common ailments in the human body, these symptoms are most likely attributed to increased stress in a person’s life.

On Monday, April 16th, Stress Awareness Day will be honored around the country to increase public awareness about stress. Common symptoms of stress include nagging headaches, decreased productivity both at work and at home, and general illness. As such, time away from work is impacted and can take a toll on your body while caring for others at home. Stress affects all systems of the body including muscular, respiratory, cardiovascular and endocrine systems.

Additional effects of stress on your body include:

  • Muscle tension or pain, especially of the shoulders, neck and head, leading to
    trigger points and muscular tightness
  • Chest pain due to inflammation in the circulatory system which is thought to tie
    stress to heart attacks
  • Rapid breathing, also known as hyperventilation, that can bring on panic
  • Increased production of epinephrine and cortisol, sometimes called the “stress
    hormones,” signal the liver to produce more glucose. For some people, especially
    those vulnerable to Type 2 diabetes, that extra blood sugar can
    mean diabetes
  • Sleep problems, including lack of sleep, which can result in restlessness and fatigue resulting from a decreased good night’s rest
  • Mood changes including anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation or focus, the
    feeling of being overwhelmed, irritability, sadness or depression
  • Behavioral changes including overeating/undereating, outbursts, drug or alcohol
    abuse, tobacco use, social withdrawal and exercising less often
  • In terms of gastrointestinal effects, stress may cause you to develop ulcers or
    severe stomach pain. Stress can also affect digestion and what nutrients your
    intestines absorb
  • The reproductive system can be affected as stress experienced over an extended period of time can affect testosterone production, sperm production and maturation, and even cause erectile dysfunction or impotence. In women, high levels of stress may be associated with absent or irregular menstrual cycles, more painful periods and changes in the length of cycles

Strategies to reduce your stress

The good news is there are many strategies and techniques to help reduce your stress level. This includes stretching, performing regular physical exercise, and relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga and tai chi. Massage techniques have also proved beneficial for reducing stress and trigger points. As Spring is upon us, socializing with friends by picking up an outdoor activity such as a run club or an adult sports league can take your mind off of work and day to day stress. Alone time to listen to music, read a book or complete a puzzle can challenge your mind. Eating healthy and providing your body with the ample amount of sleep is always the key to building a strong foundation.

Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic and Raleigh Orthopaedic Therapy Services offers the CORE (Center for Orthopaedic Rehabilitation and Exercise) Program to put you on the path to better health, fewer aches and pains, and improved quality of life. Our CORE program includes programs such as, Group Fitness, balance program, Tai Chi, One-on-One Fitness Sessions as well as special events and educational seminars. Whether you are looking to get your lifestyle back, lose weight, or simply get more active, the CORE Program is dedicated to helping you reach your goals! To get started, contact us at or 919-863-6834.

 About Ashley Yartin, MS, LAT, ATC:

Ashley Yartin is a Certified and Licensed Athletic Trainer at the Raleigh Orthopaedic Performance Center. She earned her Master’s Degree from LSU in 2009 and her Bachelor of Science Degree in 2007 from Florida State University. Ashley has been a Certified and Licensed Athletic Trainer since 2007. Ashley worked with the East Carolina University Women’s Basketball program as an athletic trainer for 6 years prior to joining Raleigh Orthopedic Clinic in 2015. Ashley enjoys golfing and traveling with her husband Mike and being a mom to her 2 year old son Jace.