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Mind-Body Techniques

By Steven Novella, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Yale University School of Medicine

Mind-body techniques are based on the theory that mental and emotional factors can influence physical health. Behavioral, psychologic, social, and spiritual methods are used to preserve health and prevent or cure disease.

Because of the abundance of scientific evidence backing the benefits of mind-body techniques, many of the approaches are now considered mainstream. However, only the benefits of relaxation are well-established and based on science. The other mind-body techniques have no well-established specific benefit other than promoting relaxation.

Mind-body techniques include the following:

Medicinal claims

Mind-body techniques can be used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, chronic pain, depression, headaches, difficulty sleeping (insomnia), and loss of urinary control (incontinence). Mind-body methods are also used as an aid in childbirth, in coping with the disease-related and treatment-related symptoms of cancer, and in preparing people for surgery. The effectiveness of mind-body techniques in treating people with asthma, high blood pressure, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus) is not as clear.

Possible side effects

There are few known risks associated with the use of mind-body techniques.