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Mind-Body Medicine

by Steven Novella, MD

Mind-body medicine is based on the theory that mental and emotional factors regulate physical health through a system of interdependent neuronal, hormonal, and immunologic connections throughout the body. Behavioral, psychologic, social, and spiritual techniques are used to enhance the mind’s capacity to affect the body and thus to preserve health and to prevent or cure disease.

Because scientific evidence supporting the benefits of mind-body medicine is abundant, many of these approaches are now considered mainstream. For example, the following techniques are used in the treatment of chronic pain, coronary artery disease, headaches, insomnia, and incontinence and as aids during childbirth:

These techniques are also used to help patients cope with disease-related and treatment-related symptoms of cancer and to prepare patients for surgery.

Efficacy of mind-body techniques in patients with asthma, hypertension, or tinnitus is not as clear.

The benefits of relaxation are well-established and science-based; generally, the other mind-body techniques have no well-established specific benefit other than promoting relaxation.

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