Fight or Flight: What Is It?

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) has two modes: fight or flight (sympathetic nervous system) and rest and digest (parasympathetic nervous system). The ANS' function is to keep you alive without having to think about it, and it controls processes such as blood is pumping around the body, temperature regulation, hearing, eyesight, you name it!

The fight or fight mode is a primal and evolutionary stress response. This enables us to deal with perceived attacks or threats to our survival. Its goal is to get your body physically prepared to literally fight the threat or run away (flight). This is hardwired into us humans, however fortunately in Milton Keynes, there are no tigers or bears on the loose for us to feel threatened. At least I hope not!

Fight or Flight - Do We Need It?

When we face real dangers, this fight or flight response is essential. However, the stressors that we are exposed to are not always life-threatening. These can be stressors around work, finances, family, friends, bad drivers, etc. Also, we cannot be thinking of stress only as an emotional and mental stress, other physical and chemical stressors can also trigger the fight or flight response. Think of being injured, having a hangover (chemical stress to the body), bad posture, processed food diets, high sugars and on and on and on.

Many people may not feel ‘emotionally’ stressed but in fact are still in a relative degree of ‘Flight or Fight’ mode as the body works to adapt to these different threats to its survival.

When You Are In Flight or Fight Mode:

  • Your body releases adrenaline and the "stress hormone" cortisol.
  • You start breathing faster using our upper chest more.
  • Your posture changes as muscles get shorter and tighter.
  • Your blood pressure increases, our pulse quickens.
  • Your blood sugar levels are increased.
  • The digestive and immune systems are downregulated (you can worry about food and infections later!)
  • Your frontal lobes (the areas of your brain for higher executive function) are increasingly cut out of the decision-making process. Behaviours are increasingly controlled by the limbic (emotional) and brainstem (reptilian) areas of the brain. Making decisions less logical and more emotional based.


Now as said, the sympathetic nervous system is there for a reason, and short term exposure can be good for you. However chronic exposure is not good, and we see everything as a threat and the responses are over exaggerated.

fight or flight

Signs You May Be Stuck in Fight or Flight Mode:

  • Increasing levels of fatigue and leaving you feeling exhausted even after a good night’s rest leading to burn-out.
  • Excessive coffee consumption just to get through the day.
  • Chronic neck, shoulder, and back pain
  • Headaches
  • Poor posture
  • Insomnia as it gets harder to get to and then stay asleep.
  • Increasing levels of anxiety, general irritability, and extended periods of depression.
  • Brain fog, poor memory, and concentration
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Sugar cravings
  • Teeth grinding and clenching
  • Digestive complaints such as IBS
  • High blood pressure
  • Auto-immune conditions and recurrent infections
  • Weight gain

How Chiropractic Can Help

Chiropractors study the unique relationship between the spine and nervous system whilst accounting for the effects these systems have on your health. Chiropractic adjustments, by helping to restore normal motion and alignment to affected joints can go some way to reducing and managing the cumulative effects of prolonged stress and tension on the body.


In this way, chiropractic care improves your posture and overall mobility helping to alleviate the many pains and problems that come from the chronic stress and strain of being stuck in ‘Flight or Fight’.


If you feel like your body is stuck in fight or flight mode and would like to speak with one of our chiropractors, please book a spinal screening with Dr. Alex!

Learn More About Chiropractic!

Neck Pain - here

Low Back Pain Recovery - here

Dizziness – here

Whiplash and Whiplash-Associated Disorder (WAD) - here

Lumbar Spine and Sciatica - here

Upper Cervical Misalignment and Malformations - here

Sports Injuries - here

Arthritis - here

Trigeminal Neuralgia - here

Lumbar Instability - here

Spinal Surgery - here

Stress Management - here

Sleep Issues - here

Hypermobility - here

Pregnancy - here

Chiropractic Care for Babies - here

Menstrual Cycle - here

Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR) - here

Hypothyroidism - here

Hyperthyroidism - here

Diet Guidance - here

Vitamin C - here

Referred Pain - here

Poor Posture - here

Dowager's Hump - here

Concussions - here

Initial Consultation: What to Expect -  here

Autonomic Nervous System - here

Types of Headache - here