Muscle Medicine: The Revolutionary Approach to Maintaining, Strengthening, and Repairing Your Muscles and Joints

Muscle Medicine: The Revolutionary Approach to Maintaining, Strengthening, and Repairing Your Muscles and Joints by Rob Destefano, Joseph Hooper Read Free Book Online

Book: Muscle Medicine: The Revolutionary Approach to Maintaining, Strengthening, and Repairing Your Muscles and Joints by Rob Destefano, Joseph Hooper Read Free Book Online
Authors: Rob Destefano, Joseph Hooper
Tags: General, Non-Fiction, Health & Fitness, Healing, Pain Management
medicine worthy of the name addresses both mind and body. When you’re dealing with chronic back and neck pain, why not use all the tools available, the ones that get at the physical symptoms as well as the possible emotional underpinnings. So we coach patients on stress-reduction techniques. Whereas conventional psychological therapy gets patients to focus on their individual life issues, our stress-reduction exercises work to make people more aware of universal body processes such as breathing that have a big influence on their emotional life. Quieting fearful or angry emotions can lessen muscle tension and pain, and that’s a good thing.
    As with all forms of treatment, timing is essential. If you’re having a lower-back spasm, you want a muscle therapist to help bring you out of pain before you give much thought to the emotions that may have triggered it. Likewise, if you’re having a heart attack, you’d like medical science to save your life, then it may be time to contemplate stress management. (That’s a dramatic example but not an idle one. Heart disease is the country’s number one killer; stress is a leading cause of heart disease.)
    Before we move on to specific mind-body exercises, let’s take a closer look at this thing, stress, that your mind and your body are up against. Stress is the body’sresponse to being overwhelmed by the outside world. For much of human evolutionary history, the outside world was trying to kill us—predators, environmental exposure, you name it—so our species evolved a hormonal mechanism to jump-start us into taking life-saving action, the so-called fight-or-flight response. The brain orders the endocrine system to produce stress hormones such as adrenaline that pump up the heart rate and send our nervous system into high gear. That’s great for fighting or fleeing tigers, but in the modern world, the threats to our well-being are more often psychological. Our stress response stays jammed in the “on” position without a satisfying physical release to turn it off. Most of the chronic diseases and disorders of the past century are either caused or made worse by this kind of unresolved hyperstress.
    In the early 1970s, Western science began to look at the health benefits of breathing and meditation exercises, and their ability to turn off the stress hormones controlled by the sympathetic nervous system and turn on the counteracting parasympathetic nervous system. Pioneering Harvard researcher Herbert Benson documented the slowed-down heart and breathing rates of meditating subjects and dubbed this the relaxation response. Since the late seventies, an MIT-trained biologist, Jon KabatZinn, has been using meditation techniques as the basis for an influential stress-reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School at Worcester, generating research and helping people get a better handle on their emotional and physical problems, including chronic muscle pain. The program Kabat-Zinn founded, now called the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society ( ), and his first book, Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, are excellent places to start digging deeper into the mind-body approach to muscle pain.
    Drawing on Benson, Kabat-Zinn, and others, we’ve come up with a short list of stress-reduction exercises that over the years some of our patients have enjoyed and benefited from. The common thread is encouraging patients to slow down and become aware (or mindful, to use the term borrowed from the Buddhist meditation tradition) of just how frantic their lives really are. Keep in mind that stress can be good. It motivates us to get to work on time and get things done. Stress itself doesn’t cause problems; it’s the way we handle it that’s the issue. When you go through your entire day hyperventilating and tensing your muscles,

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