Monday, August 23, 2010

Meditation & Health

In Traditional Chinese medicine theory regulating emotions is an important part of health. Certain conditions can lead to emotional changes just as easily as emotions can cause illness. One way to be aware of emotions without letting them get out of control is through meditation.

The many types of meditation use specific postures, focused attention possibly on breath, mantra or movement. Meditation is used for relaxation, mental calmness, psychological balance and overall wellbeing. Previous studies have shown the longer someone has been meditating the greater the effect is on the brain.  A new study has shown there can be changes with as little as 11 hours of meditating using a Chinese meditation technique.

A recent study of meditators found a shift in their brain activity from the stress-prone right frontal cortex to the left which is calmer thereby helping to reduce anxiety, stress and depression. They also found there is decreased activity in the amygdala which processes fear. Researchers monitored brain activity through MRI technology and found increased alpha waves as well as activation of the autonomic nervous system which regulates bodily functions we don't have control over such as digestion and blood pressure. Often these systems are compromised by stress which can result in disease therefore managing stress through meditation or meditative activities such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong or Yoga can have numerous health benefits.

Fibromyalgia & TCM

Fibromyalgia has become a common diagnosis in recent years to explain symptoms of fatigue, all over body pain, difficulty in concentrating and retaining new information, sleep disturbances, exercise difficulties, digestive disturbances and headaches. There are many other symptoms that are common among those with FM.

Traditional Chinese medicine views fibromyalgia as a blockage of qi and blood in the channels that circulate through the body. Blockages can occur due to stress or emotional changes affecting the liver system which has the responsibility of regulating the smooth flow of qi in the body. Therefore if the Liver system is out of balance qi and blood will not flow smoothly causing blockages. Also if there is insufficient qi or blood flowing through the meridians there won't be enough nourishment to muscles, organs, bones and brain.  Deficiency in qi and blood can result from being overworked mentally and physically, poor digestion or improper eating and sleeping habits.

Acupuncture has been shown to improve fatigue and anxiety associated with fibromyalgia.  Pain may also be reduced through acupuncture although greater improvement is associated with more frequent sessions 3/week compared to 1/week.  Cupping may also be beneficial as it stimulates the flow of qi and blood targeting specific muscle groups.

A recent study on Tai Chi reported improved sleep, mood and quality of life for those with fibromyalgia.