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What is Mind-Body Medicine?

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

Mind-Body Medicine is an approach to symptoms, illness and disease that does not solely focus on the physical body. It recognises that the mind and the body are deeply connected via the brain and nervous system.

This connection works both ways, the mind affects the body and the body affects the mind.

Assessing a medical problem from the perspective of this reciprocal mind-body relationship allows for a much broader understanding of the problem to develop, which is usually more meaningful for the patient, opens up the opportunity for more effective non-pharmaceutical treatments to be utilised and in the process, creates conditions within the body which are more conducive with natural healing and health.

The current medical model in the western world focuses solely on the body and treats the mind as a separate entity, as if physical health and mental health are two different things. This leaves many people with mental and physical symptoms that are beyond medical explanation or stuck on medication to control their symptoms without any consideration as to why the body is producing those symptoms in the first place.

Even worse, many are made to feel that their symptoms aren't real or are all in their head.

They may be told that the cause for their symptoms is unknown, there is no treatment available and they have to live with them for the rest of their lives.

Often times, this is not true.

It is estimated that up to 40% of the symptoms that a GP deals with every day are not explainable by current medical science.

Shifting the focus to a deeper level, where the nervous system forms this central connection between the mind and the body, opens up the possibility of discovering the root cause of the problem.

Developments in neuroscience over the last 20 years show that many of these 'unexplainable' symptoms are being generated by the brain and nervous system rather than because of any disease process in the body itself.

The most common reason for the brain to create these very real physical symptoms is in response to stress.

Stress can be caused by difficult life experiences (either current or past) but also by internal thought patterns and emotional processes.

Many of us are so accustomed to our own stress that we don't even notice it.

Our brains control every organ, system and cell in our bodies. A brain under stress can create changes in the normal functioning of the body which, over time, can lead to persistent symptoms and physical conditions.

Some conditions that are commonly caused by mind-body processes are:

chronic pain, chronic fatigue, chronic tendonitis, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel/bladder syndrome, migraines, tension headaches, functional neurological disorders, palpitations, dizziness, tinnitus, unexplained numbness/tingling, depression, anxiety, PTSD and insomnia.

Treatments aimed at reducing stress in the nervous system through psychological, emotional and behavioural techniques can lead to improvement in symptoms and, in many cases, lasting recovery.

The beauty of working directly with the nervous system is that it is so adaptable; its processes of learning, predicting and adapting that have led to the creation or exacerbation of physical symptoms in the first place are the very same processes that can be utilised to find a path to recovery.

Mindbody medicine is not a replacement for western medicine, it is always intended to work alongside it. It is vitally important to exclude any physical disease that may need conventional treatment as well as considering how the mind-body connection may be playing a part. We need both.

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