Along with meditation, there are two other relaxation techniques in mind-body medicine:
1. Autogenic training. This technique uses visual imagery and body awareness to put a person into a deep state of relaxation.
2. Progressive muscle relaxation. This technique involves slowly tensing and then releasing muscle groups in the body, starting in the toes and finishing with the muscles in the head.
It may be useful to try various techniques at least once and then find the combination that works best for you. Ideally, you should do the exercises daily. Relaxation techniques are designed to train your mind to become less responsive to stress. They may help you to maintain the calm and peaceful feelings you obtain throughout the day.
Guided imagery is a form of meditation in which you direct your thoughts and imagination toward a relaxed and focused state. There are different ways to approach this practice, including the use of tapes, an instructor, or scripts, but the purpose here is to use creative imagery to induce a state of relaxation. Some people imagine beautiful encounters with nature, while others may envision a particularly wonderful day they have had.
Most people are aware that negative thoughts often provoke unhealthy reactions. Thinking of someone who makes you nervous, such as your boss or your mother-in-law, may cause you to feel butterflies in your stomach. That's the premise of guided imagery — -the belief that positive and peaceful thoughts will promote well-being in your body.
How does guided imagery work?
When using a human guide or a tape for guided imagery, you are often guided toward a relaxed state where you imagine all the details of a safe, comfortable place, such as a beach or a garden. This relaxed state may aid in healing, learning, creativity, and performance. It may help you feel more in control of your emotions and thought processes, which may improve your attitudes, health, and sense of well-being.
Hypnosis can be a helpful therapy in MS. It may encourage relaxation, control anxiety and pain, and boost mood and optimism. Hypnosis is a state of consciousness resembling sleep, an altered, relaxed state of mind, where people are often open to suggestion.
Self-hypnosis is another way we can induce this state of relaxation, although the hypnotic state will not be as deep as when you are hypnotized by someone else. Self-hypnosis can be used to reduce feelings of anxiety and promote relaxation. There are plenty of books and Internet resources to teach you more about hypnosis.
While people often associate hypnosis with entertainment, it's used as a clinical tool, especially in psychotherapy where people are trying to change behaviors, such as kicking a smoking habit or losing weight. It's important to find a trained health provider, such as a clinical psychologist, for this therapy.
Biofeedback is another type of unconventional therapy that uses the mind to control the body. Using feedback from various monitoring procedures and equipment, a biofeedback specialist can teach you to control certain involuntary body responses, such as brain activity, blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension.
Biofeedback may be helpful in treating many medical conditions and symptoms, including headaches, incontinence, high blood pressure, and epilepsy. Clinical trials are evaluating biofeedback in other conditions as well. You can receive biofeedback training in hospitals, physical therapy offices, and medical centers. Ask your specialist to recommend a biofeedback program.
During a biofeedback session, a specialist will place electrical sensors on various parts of your body that will measure your physiological response to stress. The goal is to help the patient gain some voluntary control over autonomic body functions. For example, say you are having tension headaches. Biofeedback may show you that you are tensing certain muscles that are causing the headaches. In essence, biofeedback teaches you to become aware of — and control — involuntary functions that have a negative effect on your body.
A study published in the journal Neurology found that yoga improved fatigue in people with MS. Several other studies on cancer patients showed that those who practiced yoga slept better and required less sleep medication. Some of the reported benefits of yoga in people with MS include increased body awareness, release of muscular tension, increased coordination and balance, less fatigue, and better management of stress.