Mind-Body Medicine: An Overview
Article Provided by National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
Mind-body medicine focuses on the interactions among the brain, mind, body, and behavior, and on the powerful ways in which emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and behavioral factors can directly affect health. It regards as fundamental an approach that respects and enhances each person's capacity for self-knowledge and self-care, and it emphasizes techniques that are grounded in this approach.
Definition of Scope of Field
Mind-body medicine typically focuses on intervention strategies that are thought to promote health, such as relaxation, hypnosis, visual imagery, meditation, yoga, biofeedback, tai chi, qi gong, cognitive-behavioral therapies, group support, autogenic training, and spirituality.a The field views illness as an opportunity for personal growth and transformation and health care providers as catalysts and guides in this process.
aCertain mind-body intervention strategies listed here, such as group support for cancer survivors, are well integrated into conventional care and, while still considered mind-body interventions, are not considered to be complementary and alternative medicine.
Mind-body interventions constitute a major portion of the overall use of CAM by the public. In 2002, mind-body techniques, including relaxation techniques, meditation, guided imagery, biofeedback, and hypnosis, were used by about 17 percent of the adult U.S. population. Prayer was used by 45 percent of the population for health reasons.1
The concept that the mind is important in the treatment of illness is integral to the healing approaches of traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, dating back more than 2,000 years. It was also noted by Hippocrates, who recognized the moral and spiritual aspects of healing, and believed that treatment could occur only with consideration of attitude, environmental influences, and natural remedies (ca. 400 B.C.). While this integrated approach was maintained in traditional healing systems in the East, developments in the Western world by the 16th and 17th centuries led to a separation of human spiritual or emotional dimensions from the physical body. This separation began with the redirection of science, during the Renaissance and Enlightenment eras, to the purpose of enhancing humankind's control over nature. Technological advances (e.g., microscopy, the stethoscope, the blood pressure cuff, and refined surgical techniques) demonstrated a cellular world that seemed far apart from the world of belief and emotion. The discovery of bacteria and, later, antibiotics further dispelled the notion of belief influencing health. Fixing or curing an illness became a matter of science (i.e., technology) and took precedence over, not a place beside, healing of the soul. As medicine separated the mind and the body, scientists of the mind (neurologists) formulated concepts, such as the unconscious, emotional impulses, and cognitive delusions, that solidified the perception that diseases of the mind were not "real," that is, not based in physiology and biochemistry.