Achieving Better Neurological Health Through Mind-Body MedicineDr. Jim Collins
Studies in neuroepidemiology report that over 40% of American adults diagnosed with common neurological conditions like headaches, migraines, back pain, stroke, and seizures use complementary and alternative medicine. Mind-body therapies are the most commonly used including deep breathing exercises, mediation, relaxation techniques and yoga. The exciting news is that they work.
Mind-Body Therapies: A Quick Introduction
Mind-body therapies are a form of complementary and alternative medicine which are designed to enhance the mind’s ability to positively impact functions and symptoms of the body. They work by providing stress reduction, relief and relaxation which can all exacerbate or worsen neurological conditions.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, mind-body practices have the ability to activate specific regions of the brain, increase heart rate variability, suppress stress-induced inflammatory pathways and an overall anti-aging effect. Many practitioners believe that mind-body medicine should be recognized as a form of illness prevention and become incorporated into primary care.
Types of Mind-Body Techniques
Besides the practice of deep breathing, meditation and yoga, other types of mind-body practices may be helpful to individuals diagnosed with a neurological health condition. The following types of mind-body techniques are provided by certified practitioners:
- Massage therapy
- Chiropractic medicine
- Tai chi
- Guided imagery
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Autogenic therapy (mild exercises of body consciousness)
- Support groups
Almost anyone can engage in mind-body medicine with a little research, practice and planning. It can also become a part of an individual’s daily routine, take place in between exercise days, or as needed to better manage symptoms. With so many varieties, there should be a mind-body practice that resonates with almost anyone.
Physical and Mental Health Benefits
As these practices become more mainstream in American culture and medicine, researchers are studying their health benefits. Studies actually go far beyond just neurological disorders and include the benefits for anxiety and depression, heart disease, cancer, gastrointestinal problems, insomnia and arthritis.
Most experts agree that mind-body practices should accompany, and not replace, medical procedures, treatments and medications. Physically, benefits include relaxation, lower blood pressure, strengthened immunity, reduced tension and pain. Emotionally, mind-body medicine can improve coping, mindfulness, resilience, and self-care and reduce stress, anxiety and panic.
Psychoneuroimmunology: Treating the Body as a Whole
A major take-away from this article is that mind-body medicine teaches us in a number of ways that we are much more than a physical being. It emphasizes communication between the mind, body and behavior. It points out to us how behavioral, social, emotional, mental and spiritual factors affect our health and well-being. It also stresses the notion that our mind is an essential component in treating any condition, including neurological disorders. Mind-body practices have become so important that a new field in medicine has emerged – psychoneuroimmunology.
Final Thoughts on Neurological Health
Modern medicine is advancing in so many new and exciting ways. Mind-body medicine can be an effective complement to traditional therapies and help people with neurological disorders better manage their symptoms while improving their coping skills. While mind-body practices are not cure-alls, they have been shown in research to improve overall well-being, quality of life and reduce the physiological effects of stress.