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Friday August 18, 2017
Alternative Medicine: Mind-Body Medicine
Alternative Medicine: Mind-Body Medicine

Mind-body medicine is the study of the interaction between the mind and the body. For example, do emotions and thoughts influence a body's physical symptoms and the corresponding disease? Are both negative and positive emotions able to effect change on a person's illness or detrimental behavior? And is there some truth to the old wives tale "mind over matter"? The answer is yes. Emotions, thoughts and the mind in general can contribute negatively to a person's ailment, and likewise can be used positively to treat specific conditions.



Prayer is probably one of the first mind-body medicines that come to mind. The act of praying brings solace to many people and a type of comfort that cannot be provided in other ways. Meditation is another form of thought process that focuses the patient away from his/her problem and onto something more positive. As the medical profession realizes and accepts mind-body medicine, the techniques actually become mainstream, and are adopted as traditional or acceptable forms of medicine. Two examples are support groups and behavior modification.

Indeed, traditional Chinese medicine and India's Ayurveda have always believed that there was a direct correlation between the mind and the body, and therefore focused on mind-body medicine. Both cultures sought to heal the whole person and not just the symptoms of the disease. In Western cultures, however, mind and body were treated separate, in part due to the many medical advancements that seemed to prove the fact that disease was caused by exterior factors. For example when germs were found to cause specific illnesses, it further reinforced the notion that the mind had nothing to do with the body's condition.

Then in the 1960s, renowned scientist and Stanford University medical graduate, Dr. George Freeman Solomon pioneered a new form of medicine. It was specifically called "psychoneuroimmunology". By performing studies on patients with rheumatoid arthritis, he was able to determine that emotional factors actually affected the severity of the condition. He concluded that the mind and body were not separate and continued his work. Today, it is generally accepted that stress reduces the body's immune system and thus, mind-body medicine is common.

Interestingly, mind body forms of treatment may also include projects in art, music and dance, as these actions tend to make people feel better about themselves and redirect them away from their symptoms. Today, there are basically five techniques of mind-body medicine:

  • Hypnotherapy is used to "suggest" things to the patient while in a state of hypnosis. The person is more relaxed than normal and is conducive to focusing on positive ideas. The therapy has been used successfully for those suffering from obsessive disorders, addiction, phobias and pain.
  • Prayer, Faith and Spirituality have been shown to have specific effects on persons with terminal illnesses. By feeling there is hope, they tend to live longer and more comfortably.
  • Relaxation Techniques involve forms of meditation, muscle relaxation, and autogenic training which uses imagery and physical sensation in the body to relax.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is beneficial to individuals suffering from fears and phobias. By exposing them to the fear in small amounts over time, they actually are able to overcome the phobia.
  • Biofeedback is a form of treatment that allows the patient to control what seem to be involuntary reactions of the body. For example, when patients are shown printouts about their high blood pressure, it can aid them in learning how to change the condition and they can actually take control of the blood pressure. Biofeedback has proved successful with migraines, tension headaches, and chronic pain.

In conclusion, mind-body medicine has been used to treat symptoms resulting from menopause such as hot flashes and depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, insomnia, anxiety, intestinal disorders, constipation, heartburn and obesity.

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