Examining the Link between Stress and Autoimmune Diseases

Examining the Link between Stress and Autoimmune Diseases


Stress and autoimmune disease may be deeply intertwined in a way that is not self evident at first glance. For example, Fibromyalgia flare-ups, have a tendency to coincide with elevated levels of emotional stress as well as other environmental stressors like changes in the weather according to this article Fibromyalgia Flare-Up: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment (healthline.com)

At first, it may seem far-fetched to link the Fibromyalgia flare-ups to stress and an imbalanced posture, but we will examine this possible correlation more closely. We will be investigating how the brain and the nervous system respond to stress. Before we get into that, we will briefly discuss what an autoimmune disease is and then uncover whether or not there is a clear link between the poor movement which causes stress and autoimmune disease.

Autoimmune Disease


Autoimmune disease is a term used to describe when cells in the body that are designed to defend you from harmful bacteria, infection, or viruses, attack the body’s native cells in a way that causes a variety of side effects which weaken normal bodily function( Autoimmune Diseases (nih.gov)). 

Some of the most common autoimmune diseases are:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Type 1 Diabetes
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

These are only a few of the 80+ autoimmune diseases science is currently aware of. The cause of these diseases is said to be unknown, however those in the field of research around autoimmune diseases have found that microorganisms, ingesting certain types of food, or chemical reactions from drugs, can trigger the immune system to attack the body. For those suffering from a mild form of this disease, the attack will subside after they have removed or expelled the exposure of the problematic variable. There are, however, those with more serious and chronic versions of autoimmune disease, where even after the trigger has been removed, their body continues to be susceptible to fibromyalgia flare-ups or more negative symptoms of another autoimmune disease. Some individuals may even become more sensitive to other variables in their environment that they were not before after having a negative reaction to a certain kind of stimulus.

Environmental Factors

External factors in our environment like air quality may trigger an autoimmune flare up, although, another variable that may play a larger role is much closer to the body itself: Your posture and quality of movement. Certain movements, such as walking while texting which can encourage a forward head posture, or tech neck, and can result in mechanical stress on your body. We are not saying explicitly that tech neck will trigger autoimmune flare ups, but moving around with a forward head posture and scrolling through stimulating content not only distracts you from your external environment and puts you at risk of injury, but it also places mechanical stress on your spine, which can potentially lead to neck pain, trap pain, headaches, or even a migraine.

Now, let’s say you are rushing to class or running late to work, and because you’ve been scrolling while moving this entire time, not only is your body under mechanical stress, but now it is also under emotional stress. This will affect your ability to problem solve and create the calm focus you need for learning or executing your job at your best ability. Now, with the mechanical stress on your neck and emotional stress from rushing, you will have less resources to deal with the stress of your environment, thus making it more difficult for you to adapt to the social interactions, obtaining new and important information, and more.

Above is just an example, but the way stress is encountered by people is more nuanced, and even more so is how your body deals with that stress. The solution may seem to be simply to avoid all stress and become stress-free. As humans, we need to respond to certain stressors and meet the demand, but how much of it is within our control? Can we make better and more informed decisions to avoid unnecessary stressors?

When you suffer from autoimmune disease, it may not look like a choice. Maybe you’ve tried it all, such as elimination diets, elimination of fragrances and dyes and artificial chemicals, etc. It can be an exhausting endeavor, however one of the most overlooked factors seems to be how stress and anxiety brought on by poor movement affect our brains and nervous system as a result. 

Brain Power

The capacity of our brain or nervous system to process data is not infinite, our processing power has a limit. This means there is a maximum amount of information we can actually produce an outcome with as humans. This limited power is further capped by other variables like energy production and our emotional state. Low energy production affects your brain’s capacity by making it feel or seem more difficult to get an important task done, or understand something new.For instance, learning a new skill or exercising critical thinking skills may not be as easy for you at 1am as it is at 1pm. This is because the body generally has sleep and wake cycles coinciding with the time of day that produce hormones and other effects in our body to either make it easier to be awake and active, or be asleep to rest and recover. Similar effects seem to be observed when people have a fibromyalgia flare-up, as daily tasks may become increasingly difficult or painful. For more specific information on Fibromyalgia, please checkout our article titled Fibromyalgia Self-Care: A Holistic Approach by Functional Patterns

The amount of stress our brain can handle before influencing something like a fibromyalgia flare-up can be affected through other means as well. As previously mentioned, one of the most overlooked factors that plays a vital role in our capacity to process information is the quality of our posture and movement. In fact, it may be the most important factor of all. A Nobel Prize recipient (for his research on the brain), Roger Sperry, holds the belief that:

Better than 90 percent of the energy output of the brain is used in relating the physical body in its gravitational field. The more mechanically distorted a person is, the less energy available for thinking, metabolism, and healing.” 

Tennessee Chiropractic Association | Spinal Health & Brain Health: How Are They Linked? (tnchiro.com)

This belief is also supported by another study which discovered links between imbalanced spinal alignment and cognitive decline. Detection of cognitive decline by spinal posture assessment in health exams of the general older population - PMC (nih.gov) It seems that stress and autoimmune disease symptoms may be directly linked through the effect posture has on our brain’s function. 


Autoimmune diseases seem to be triggered by stress that the body can not properly handle. The stress we encounter is not handled properly because our capacity to handle stress is largely consumed by other factors that we may or may not have control over. We argue that an integral variable to how well our body adapts to our environment, is how well you move in it. When you move better, your body seems to also handle stress better, and regulate on a systematic level. It is written in our DNA to pursue survival, so when your body can regulate, it also can start regenerating and repairing the damage done. One of the most effective ways to do this seems to be minimizing unnecessary stressors. In order to do that, you have to recognize what those stressors are. Poor movement could very well be one of the most influential ones. How do you fix poor movement patterns? You learn to see the energy leaks in your movement, and you address the imbalances to move better. At Functional Patterns, we constantly evolve our training techniques in order to try and do just that. We continually refine our approach and ask if we really are getting the best results possible with the most efficient means. We do this by doing our best to limit the fixed beliefs we have about reality and test the variables we can account for. Below are two examples of success stories where people suffering from autoimmune diseases improved their posture and movement with Functional Patterns and also improved their lives in many ways as a result.



For many of our practitioners and clients worldwide, it seems that there is a recurring theme of correcting posture imbalances and seeing health and quality of life improve in various ways. Stress and autoimmune disease symptoms seem to coincidentally reduce for people as they improve the efficiency and stability of their posture. Although, we encourage you to not take our word for it, and see exactly how “training intentionally, not habitually” can enhance your own quality of life.


  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/fibromyalgia/fibromyalgia-flare-up#signs-and-symptoms
  2. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/autoimmune/index.cfm
  3. https://functionalpatterns.com/blogs/articles/fibromyalgia-self-care-a-holistic-approach-by-functional-patterns
  4. https://www.tnchiro.com/research/spinal-health-brain-health-how-are-they-linked/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9120125/
  6. https://www.instagram.com/reel/CrdsGbsASPU/?igshid=MTc4MmM1YmI2Ng==
  7. https://www.instagram.com/reel/CrjVZysBUMQ/?igshid=MTc4MmM1YmI2Ng==
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