Relaxation-response techniques could reduce the need for health care services by 43 percent

I love seeing a study like this out of a respected hospital such as Massachusetts General Hospital.

“Relaxation-response techniques, such as meditation, yoga, and prayer, could reduce the need for health care services by 43 percent, according to a study at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) that looked at participants in a relaxation-response-focused training program…The relaxation response was first described more than 40 years ago by Harvard Medical School Professor Herbert Benson, founder and director emeritus of the BHI and a co-author of the current study. The physiologic opposite of the well-documented fight-or-flight response, the relaxation response is elicited by practices including meditation, deep breathing, and prayer, and has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of stress-related disorders ranging from anxiety to hypertension”

“I think of it this way: There are many gates to wellness, but not everyone is ready to walk through a particular gate at a given time. From a public health perspective, it is better to be prepared to offer these tools to people in their customary settings than to wait for them to seek out these interventions. For that reason, we feel that mind-body interventions — which are both low-cost and essentially risk-free — should perhaps be incorporated into regular preventive care.”

http://bit.ly/1Ps1bU6

Ego, Medicine and RSD

No, this isn’t a blog bashing your doctor’s sh*tty bedside manner. It’s also not about the doctor who makes you feel like you don’t understand your own condition (even though you have a feeling you “get it” maybe more than she does). I could blog about those things. I could blog about those ad nauseam. I will spare you my past frustration. The ego I am thinking of is ours: the patient’s.

I think in RSD we can hold ourselves back. And I think ego is the culprit.

Often we won’t entertain the idea that something we are doing or not doing just might impact our health. We believe in a pill but not healthy food. We believe in ketamine but not meditation. When we’ve worked out and lost weight, then we take credit. That we do.   But in terms of a medical condition like RSD, it seems that we believe someone else has to help us and that someone has to have many degrees and awards framed on the wall. And that we need drugs and shots – lots of drugs and shots. I say this because this is where I was coming from. It feels severe so the treatment needs to be powerful.

But what if treatment doesn’t need to be powerful drugs or shots?

Do our egos stop us from doing things that have the potential to change our health simply because the treatment doesn’t seem impressively dire enough? Is a pain experience somehow less intense if you treat it with qi gong instead of nerve blocks?

If the cure for Ebola turned out to be somewhat scientifically simple, would that imply the disease was never fatal to begin with?  No, that’s insane. It seems like in the world of pain and RSD we might be thinking that the treatment method is somehow indicative of the severity of ones experience. And that we are less accepting of alternative methods perhaps because we fear a downgrade of the perception of what we are going through.

this is why I believe qi gong works for rsd

Chronic Pain May Be About Rewiring The Brain Instead Of Using Analgesics

“We now know that absolutely in acute pain, there’s some form of injury — some form of danger signal — and we can modify pain processing within the central nervous system to some extent using a drug like a morphine. But when it switches over to chronic pain, that’s when it becomes really difficult,” Hutchinson added.

http://huff.to/1k3SFhf

When I clicked on this article and saw the date, my recent late night Art Bell youtube habits maybe jumped to a level of concern. I saw “posted 12/10/15” and instead of thinking “oh it’s from another country,” my first thought was “ooh a time traveler!”  Hahaha ahhhh oh boy.  If you ever listened to Art Bell, that oddly makes sense.

qi gong for fibromyalgia: a study

Before you say, “but I don’t have fibro, I have RSD,” read this anyway.  There’s a chance that if you’re in the midst of a gnarly pain cycle, you might have some fibro pain in there.  And qi gong just might be the thing to relieve it.

“Many subjects reported reductions in other FMS symptoms, and two reported they were completely symptom-free. Results from the 3-month follow-up indicated some slight rebound from the post-treatment measures, but still much better than those observed at baseline.”

How often do you read the words “completely symptom-free?”

This study is based on external qi gong.  That’s when a practitioner applies qi gong energy to you rather than you meditating and cultivating energy internally by yourself.  Think of it like getting acupuncture needles from an acupuncturist but there’s no needles.  In this particular study, the practitioner administered “acupressure, qi emission, qi balancing, and magnetic cupping on each individual.”  Below is a link to the study.  These results (listed below) are impressive.

THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE

Design:  Ten patients with FMS completed five to seven sessions of EQT over 3 weeks with pre- and posttreatment assessment and a 3-month follow-up. Each treatment lasted approximately 40 minutes.

Outcome Measures: Tender point count (TPC) and Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) were the primary measures. McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), anxiety, and self-efficacy were the secondary outcomes.

The results:

mean tender point count (TPC): reduced from 136.6 to 59.5

mean McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ): decreased from 27.0 to 7.2;

mean Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ): reduced from 70.1 to 37.3

mean Beck Depression Inventory (BDI): decreased from 24.3 to 8.3

 

http://1.usa.gov/1MyhsVK

qi gong for late-stage rsd: a small study

The blog I am linking to below is well worth the read for anyone with RSD/CRPS or chronic pain of any kind. This study is what caught my eye:

“In a block-random placebo-controlled clinical trial, researchers studied the effect of qigong on treatment resistant patients with late-stage complex regional pain syndrome type 1.  It consisted of 26 adult patients between the ages of 18-65.  The experimental group received qi emission and qigong instruction (including home exercise) by a qigong master.

The control group received a similar set of instructions from a sham master.  22 completed the protocol.  Among the genuine qigong group, 82% reported less pain by the end of the first training session compared to 45% of control patients.  By the last training session, 91% of the qigong patients reported analgesia compared to 36% of control patients. The study concluded that qigong training was found to result in transient pain reduction and long-term anxiety reduction.

http://bit.ly/1FVfvl8

7 reasons to try qi gong for RSD

Ok maybe 8.  I’m adding one.  It’s FREE.  I should say that usually you must pay to have a teacher show you the form (which is often the cost of one massage or acupuncture treatment).  Then you have the tools to help yourself whenever you need it. For FREE.  For a LIFETIME.  But I do know there are podcasts on itunes as well if you want to try to go completely cost-free.

It’s almost unbelievable, right? No, i am over the FREE part.  Actually, I’m not.  That still excites me.  But what I am getting at is how a form of moving meditation can alleviate pain and so many symptoms. Here are 7 benefits of qi gong and tai chi from the blog linked below.  I have never tried tai chi but I imagine at some point I will.  What I love  most about qi gong is that I feel confident in my abilities to control my pain.  It takes work but I feel it has helped me immensely.

Cultivating the Qi through Integral Qigong and Tai Chi triggers numerous health benefits:

  1. Qigong and Tai Chi initiate the “relaxation response,” which is fostered when the mind is freed from its many distractions. This decreases the sympathetic function of the autonomic nervous system, which in turn reduces heart rate and blood pressure, dilates the blood capillaries, and optimizes the delivery of oxygen and nutrition to the tissues.
  2. Qigong and Tai Chi alter the neurochemistry profile toward accelerated inner healing function. Neurotransmitters, also called information molecules, bond with receptor sites in the immune, nervous, digestive, endocrine and other systems to excite or inhibit function to moderate pain, enhance organ capacity, reduce anxiety or depression, and neutralize addictive cravings.
  3. Qigong and Tai Chi enhance the efficiency of the immune system through increased rate and flow of the lymphatic fluid and activation of immune cells. Resistance to disease and infection is accelerated by the elimination of toxic metabolic by-products from the interstitial spaces in the tissues, organs, and glands through the lymphatic system.
  4. Qigong and Tai Chi increases the efficiency of cell metabolism and tissue regeneration through increased circulation of oxygen and nutrient rich blood to the brain, organs, and tissues.
  5. Qigong and Tai Chi coordinate and balance right/left brain hemisphere dominance promoting deeper sleep, reduced anxiety, and mental clarity.
  6. Qigong and Tai Chi induce alpha and, in some cases, theta brain waves which reduce heart rate and blood pressure, facilitating relaxation, and mental focus; this optimizes the body’s self-regulative mechanisms by decreasing the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.
  7. Qigong and Tai Chi moderate the function of the hypothalamus, pituitary, and pineal glands, as well as the cerebrospinal fluid system of the brain and spinal cord, which manages pain and mood as well as optimizing immune function.

http://www.instituteofintegralqigongandtaichi.org/iiqtc/whypractice.htm

“Use of qigong therapy in the detoxification of heroin addicts”

A study that might interest anyone who is going through a medication withdrawal.  Looking back, I wish I was doing more qi gong  when I went off all the meds.  I depend on qi gong now almost exclusively for any RSD-related issues I still have.

“RESULTS: Reduction of withdrawal symptoms in the qigong group occurred more rapidly than in the other groups. From day 1, the qigong group had significantly lower mean symptom scores than did the other groups (P <.01). Both the qigong and medication groups had much lower anxiety scores than did the control group (P<.01), and the qigong group had significantly lower anxiety scores than did the medication group (P<.01). All subjects had a positive response to the urine morphine test before treatment. Fifty percent of the qigong group had negative urine tests on day 3, compared to 23% in the control group and 8% in the medication group (P <.01). By day 5 of treatment, all subjects in the qigong group had negative urine tests, compared to day 9 for the medication group and day 11 for the control group.”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11795622

Foods to fight anxiety. And possibly RSD?

RSD/CRPS is often described as an anxiety disorder (certainly gone awry) and a sympathetic system stuck in “fight or flight.” Maybe you don’t believe that. But likely anxiety has set in anyway from the overwhelming stress of the prognosis (a prognosis I believe doctors will learn later does not have to be and possibly contributes to the decline in some patients). What we do know is that western medicines like ketamine sedate the body. We now have learned ketamine is being used for depression as well. We know that many medications for RSD are anti-anxiety meds. With that knowledge, why aren’t more doctors prescribing meditation and a change in diet?

I am not a doctor or a nutritionist. I can only speak for me. But I did improve significantly when I started to practice qi gong on a regular basis. There is a cumulative effect to meditating. Food is another tool that has assisted in my calming endeavor. Turmeric, avocado, kale, fish oil, ginger root tea, among others (okay sometimes Cabernet).

Below is a list of 13 foods from a mindbodygreen blog that can help ease anxiety. So often we ignore the food we are putting in our bodies, eat unhealthy foods and then seek outside medicine. Maybe those foods aren’t unhealthy but they might not be helping our bodies. Perhaps they would be foods better suited for another medical condition.

What if food is the answer?

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-15428/13-foods-to-help-ease-anxiety-stress.html
from mindbodygreen:

1. Oysters Research has correlated an imbalance of zinc to copper with anxiety. This trace mineral ratio is responsible for proper neurotransmitter function and adaptation to stress. Increased copper and decreased zinc may lead to symptoms of anxiety.

2. Chamomile Tea Sip on this natural anti-anxiety medicine for its natural calming effect. This soothing, mild tea was shown to significantly decrease anxiety symptoms in just a few weeks!

3. Rooibos Tea Rooibos, or African red bush tea, is a delicious way to bring a natural calm to your day. Researchers are looking into its effect on cortisol. It seems to work by having a balancing effect on the body’s main stress hormone.

4. Full-Fat Kefir In functional medicine, the gut is considered the “second brain” because it’s home to 95% of your “feel good” hormone seratonin. With more than 100 million neurons, your gut’s health is essential to manage anxiety.

Bacterial imbalances in your gut can alter brain chemistry, and kefir, an ancient fermented dairy drink, might just be the most powerful probiotic ever! It also has fat soluble vitamins A, D and K2, all important for brain health.

5. Turkey …Tryptophan is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps you to feel calm. Tryptophan in the form of meat, has been shown to reduce anxiety disorders!

6. Turmeric Curcuminoids, the antioxidants in turmeric, have a neuroprotective quality and help enhance your mood. It was shown in a randomized controlled trial to be an effective option for major depressive disorder, which is closely linked to anxiety disorders.

7. Organ Meats If you eat meat, organ meats are some of the best sources of nutrients needed to beat anxiety, like zinc and vitamin D. They also contain copious amounts of choline, needed for the synthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Liver is also abundant in B vitamins, which are needed for methylation, a metabolic process in the body that is responsible for proper synthesis of neurotransmitters that regulate mood. Homocysteine levels and MTHFR mutations are two tests that I run to ensure optimal neurotransmitter metabolism and methylation.

8. Avocados This superfruit is great for brain health and anxiety. They contain potassium which helps naturally lower blood pressure. Avocados also contain beneficial B vitamins and monounsaturated fats that are needed for neurotransmitter and brain health.

9. Dark Chocolate Science has vindicated chocolate lovers everywhere. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology revealed that people who drank a dark chocolate drink, equal to about 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate per day, felt calmer than those who did not.

10. Asparagus This sulfur-rich vegetable also contains the specifically beneficial B vitamin, folic acid. Low levels of folic acid are linked to neurotransmitter impairment, which can lead to anxiety. A 5.3-ounce serving provides 60% of the recommended daily allowance for folic acid! It also contains moderate amounts of potassium, which can lower blood pressure.

11. Adaptogenic Herbs One common hormonal signaling pathway dysfunction I find in patients struggling with anxiety disorders is the brain-adrenal axis. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is part of your sympathetic “flight-or-fight ” response and something, and can play a role in adrenal fatigue. Stress hormones, like cortisol, can cause seratonin receptors to become less sensitive to activation. Adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha, rhodiola and holy basil are some of the tools I use to optimize brain-adrenal function in patients.

12. Leafy Greens If you struggle with stress and anxiety increase the greens! Plant foods like Swiss chard and spinach are rich in magnesium, the natural “chill pill,” which also helps regulate the brain-adrenal axis.

13. Fatty Meat Inflammation is one factor when it comes to brain health and anxiety. Omega-3 fats have been shown to decrease anxiety. Omega-rich foods like Alaskan salmon and grass-fed beef can help decrease inflammation and help cortisol and adrenaline from spiking.

Biofeedback

A great blog about the benefits of biofeedback. I, myself, have never done formal biofeedback. Once my rheumotologist told me that qi gong was effectively biofeedback, I never pursued the formal type. That’s not to say I am not open to it. Learning to control certain functions that I previously believed were out of my control was very freeing. It’s the ultimate Jedi Mind Trick to get yourself out of pain or warm your body using your own mind.

https://abodyofhope.wordpress.com/

“Biofeedback is a medical training method used to help people learn to gain better control over their Autonomic functions. Heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, sweating, body/skin temperature, circulation, stress, and muscle tension are some of the ways we can learn to have some control over our bodies. For those who suffer from chronic pain disorders, diabetes or arthritis, learning how to increase the bloodflow to the legs, feet, and hands not only decreases pain like cold or burning sensations, it can stimulate healing in the bones, muscles and nerves where there is atrophy, further reducing deep bone pain sensations. People who suffer with Anxiety and Depressive Disorders can benefit by tracking progress through relaxation, muscle release exercises, sleep training, etc. Some of the tools used along with the EMG Biofeedback device are counseling, meditation, guided imagery, visualization techniques, music therapy, self hypnotism training, muscle relaxation techniques, focus exercises, etc. Some people describe Biofeedback like playing a video game on the screen, but the remotes are your mind and body. Each program would be different based on the patient, their specialized needs, and the Biofeedback trainer.”

Meditation to rebuild gray matter in 8 weeks – a Harvard study

This is amazing and, as someone who practices meditation, it makes complete sense to me. We have more control over our physical health than we know.

http://www.feelguide.com/2014/11/19/harvard-unveils-mri-study-proving-meditation-literally-rebuilds-the-brains-gray-matter-in-8-weeks/

The study was led by a Harvard-affiliated team of researchers based at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the team’s MRI scans documented for the very first time in medical history how meditation produced massive changes inside the brain’s gray matter. “Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology. “This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing…the participants spent an average of 27 minutes per day practicing mindfulness exercises, and this is all it took to stimulate a major increase in gray matter density in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection. McGreevey adds: “Participant-reported reductions in stress also were correlated with decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress. None of these changes were seen in the control group, indicating that they had not resulted merely from the passage of time.”