Mind-Body Techniques in Wound Healing

Karen A. Wientjes, PT, MPH, CWS

Creative visualization also can be used to imagine warmth or light energy and to visually send that energy to the wounded area.19 The patient visualizes the wound reducing in size and the body surrounding the area with love.19,20 Creative visualization also can be used to mitigate pain by visually asking the body where the pain is and what is the source in order to better understand the disease process.19

Relaxation and conscious breathing. The technique described by Benson21 involves picking a word or mantra and repeating it as the body surrenders into a comfortable resting position. Voluntary muscle relaxation from head to feet over a 10- to 20-minute period encourages a slow down of the sympathetic nervous system. The mind rests, allowing thoughts to float freely. This technique may be useful to diminish stress as well as incorporate a heightened body awareness and patient participation in care.

Conscious breathing. Another method of promoting awareness is through the conscious perception of breathing, focusing on the quality and life-giving nature of the breath. Repeating the mantra "in/out" maintains a presence and allows the mind to view the body in the breath.20 Awareness may be directed toward the perception of the rise and fall of the chest with each breath or the sensation of the air flowing through the nose. This exercise is often easier when coached by the practitioner or a voice recorded tape.

This technique can be further enhanced when combined with gentle stretching. When relaxed, the breath can teach the body how to move. Movement should naturally follow the cycles of the breath; thereby, allowing for deeper release into the posture with each exhalation. This type of awareness and coordination of breath and movement is a key element in the practice of Hatha yoga.

Prayer. Regardless of religion, spiritual prayer for healing can be extremely powerful. Several groundbreaking works have shown the relationship between the consciousness (brain and body) and the spirit.18,22,23 Many individuals with chronic diseases rely on their spirituality to cope with physical symptoms. Spiritual coping has been found to facilitate positive thinking and health-promoting behaviors.15 Likewise, intercessory prayer - ie, prayer by one or more persons on behalf of another - has been found to be successful in such areas as coronary artery disease.22-24 Pastoral care or other prayer groups often welcome the names of individuals for which an intention for healing is desired. This may serve as another means to encourage healing in someone who has simply not responded to conventional wound care treatment. At a minimum, it behooves the healthcare provider to at least acknowledge and support a patient's spirituality.

Accepting the Outcome

Healthcare providers often can become discouraged by a lack of progress with a particular patient. However, in actuality, it may be the healer who requires healing. Healthcare providers are no different than their patients. Each individual carries emotional baggage that can permeate one's health and general wellness. Energy, whether positive or negative, is communicated through the healthcare provider's touch; therefore, clinicians should develop more self-awareness and take notice of the role stress plays in their own well being.25


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