Effective Treatment for Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor, and research has concluded that integrative care offers the best treatment. An analysis of over 150 studies, published in 2017 by the American College of Physicians, recommends movement therapies, bodywork, acupuncture, and mindfulness as effective treatments, instead of medications.

Integrative care for back pain focuses on techniques that speed up the healing process, relax muscle tension, and address structural issues in joints and tendons that affect the physical health of the back and spine. It can also address pain management directly, helping to regulate the nervous system and reduce the sensation of pain in general.

Movement therapies like classes and clinics are able to address the mechanics of the back, helping to correct imbalanced movement patterns that contribute to pain. Through mindful awareness, neuroplasticity, alignment, and restorative practice, movement therapies can correct and retrain the body away from dysfunction.

Acupuncture is proven to be effective at reducing pain levels in general, and is a great way to address back pain specifically. It helps rebalance underlying issues that contribute to the back pain, as well as working with the nervous system to lower the intensity of pain signals and the perception of pain overall.

Bodywork is able to address the specific muscle tension and joint health that causes a lot of back pain, increasing blood and nutrient flow and supporting the body’s own healing processes. It is able to effectively release tension, address fascial issues, and treat the secondary pain and tension that comes from protective movement.

Mindfulness can also be effective for back pain because it is proven to help lower pain levels in general. After eight weeks of mindfulness practice, there are specific changes that happen in the brain and how it relates to the nervous system, turning down the volume on pain signals and the stress response that pain signals cause.

At Ha.Lé, we are experienced in treating back pain, and will work with you to determine the best course of treatment for your specific situation. Our classes and clinics are able to work with students with a wide variety of back health concerns, and our therapists are able to specifically address the symptoms and imbalances of back pain.

Integrative Treatment for Migraines

Migraine headaches are a common response to both mental and physical stress, and happen more often in women than men. There is no cure for migraines, but there are ways to reduce the symptoms. Acupuncture, Bodywork, Movement, and Mindfulness are integrative treatment options with effective results, without the side effects of medication.

Acupuncture reduces the frequency of migraines with the same effectiveness as preventative medications. Up to 59% of people with migraines see a 50% or more drop in the frequency of their headaches, and the effect of 6 weekly sessions can last for 6 months or more.

Bodywork is also a helpful migraine treatment. It generally reduces the frequency of migraines and improves sleep. On average, it can reduce migraines by 30-34% for up to 4 weeks, according to a 2006 study.

Movement with a therapeutic focus will also reduce migraine frequency and intensity. Migraines are associated with disturbances in the autonomic nervous system and in the regulation of the circulatory system. Movement classes help restore and regulate these systems, as well as target tension and stress that can contribute to headaches.

Mindfulness helps to significantly lower the pain intensity of migraines and correct the effects of stress on the body. One study that looked at mindfulness for migraines found that it had no adverse events, zero drop outs, and excellent adherence, which is a big contrast from pharmaceutical treatment.

Migraines are a disorder of a hyper-excitable brain, and so integrative therapies that reduce stress, rebalance the nervous system, regulate sleep cycles, and lower pain levels can be effective treatment. The medications available only work for 50% of people, and come with significant side effects. Research has shown that Acupuncture is just as effective as those medications, and other integrative treatments are also able to reduce the intensity and frequency of migraines.

The Importance of Breath

The breath is one of our most important healing tools, and possibly one of the most overlooked. Breathing is something we do all day, every day, usually without conscious thought. Because it is so constant, it disappears into the background of our body awareness. When we consciously think about and change the breath, we are able to speak to the body in very profound ways.

The breath is one of the easiest bridges between the parts of our bodies that we can control and the bodily processes that are not conscious. It is a biological process that naturally falls into both categories, and so becomes a way for our mind to speak to our body directly.

Deep breathing: When we take a deep breath, it stimulates the vagus nerve and the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the system that calms the body, helping us come out of a state of stress and distress, and move toward rest, restoration, and healing. Deep breathing helps reduce emotional distress and anxiety because it changes how those feelings are felt in the physical body. It can also help bring a sense of calm centeredness and overall wellbeing.

Breath awareness: Turning our attention to the breath is a fundamental mindfulness practice. When we pay attention to the flow of air in and out of our bodies, it cues the mind to tune into the present moment. This allows us to drop the anxiety and stress that comes with thinking about the past and future, and brings us more fully present to the physical reality of being alive. When we practice mindfulness like this, it can rewire neural pathways in the brain to reduce pain, anxiety, depression, and stress.

Breath in the body: The breath is also a physical event in the body, engaging a complex array of muscles and tissues and massaging the internal organs. Injuries, surgeries, and chronic stress can change the way the body breathes, which in turn can cause chronic tension and pain. Linking movement with the breath can help release this muscle tension and reset neuromuscular patterns. There are also breath awareness and breathing techniques that can help address structural issues like pain in the low back, pelvis, and neck and shoulders.

The breath is a powerful healing tool that allows us to speak to parts of the body that we cannot reach with the mind alone. By changing how we breathe and how we pay attention to our breath, we are able to counter the effects of chronic stress, reduce anxiety, release muscle tension, treat pain, and bring a sense of overall wellbeing.

Counseling for the Mind and Body

Our body is not separate from our mind, but instead they are aspects of the same system. An event in the body creates a response in the mind, and feelings and thoughts in the mind create physical responses in the body. When creating health, it is often necessary to address the mental and emotional aspects of distress as well as the physical effects.

Biologically, there are multiple ways that the mind and body communicate. Three of these pathways physically respond to our thoughts and feelings through the neurological system, endocrine system, and immune system. We are wired this way so that our bodies know when to prepare for danger and when it is safe to focus on digestion and healing.

When confronted with stress and danger, our bodies divert resources away from long term health in order to maintain short term survival. This means that our ability to fight off infection, to remain calm and centered, to fully and comfortably digest our food, and to have enough restful sleep is sacrificed in order to run away from lions, even if they are not real lions.

The reverse is also true. When our bodies experience pain and distress, it impacts our thoughts and feelings. The pain affects our nervous system, causing distinct physiological changes that can result in depression or anxiety. It also impacts our ability to keep things in perspective, increasing our worry and fear to levels above what helps keep us safe.

This is why mental health counseling is such an important part of what we do at Ha.Lé, and we have recently expanded our counseling offerings. All of our counselors understand the deep connection between the body and the mind, and bring deep compassion and expertise their sessions. We are here to help you create health for your whole mind and body.

Mind Body Therapy

Restorative practices are key to maintaining and creating health. Our bodies are designed to regularly have deep rest in order to reset the nervous system, flush the effects of stress, and rebalance internal processes, which all supports health and healing on a deep, fundamental level. Without enough restoration, our bodies become locked into chronic stress patterns that create dysfunction in our physical, mental, and emotional lives.

Mindfulness principles support restorative practices, which in turn creates a cascade of health benefits in the body. As the body moves into rest and restore mode, the heart rate will slow, the breath will deepen, and blood pressure will decrease. Common areas of muscular tension like the diaphragm, pelvis, and neck and shoulders, will begin to relax and release. As the musculoskeletal tension along the spine releases, the vertebrae will be able to make subtle adjustments toward alignment. The nervous system will also re-regulate itself, which helps to turn down the volume of pain signals, and other systems of the body like digestion, circulation, and circadian rhythms, will also reset and rebalance.

Mind Body Therapy uses this effectiveness of mindfulness and restoration to address specific health conditions.  At Ha.Lé, we always begin with a conversation, and the initial conversation for Mind Body Therapy will assess your health condition and personal goals. We will also seek to understand your current physical, mental, and spiritual capacity. This allows us to create a personalized mind body practice for you that applies mindfulness principles to optimize your health.

Your personalized mind body therapy practice can provide specialized techniques for a variety of specific health conditions. It can help with chronic pain from musculoskeletal conditions, and cardiovascular disease including heart failure and coronary heart disease. Mind Body Therapy can also address conditions like diabetes mellitus, obesity, anxiety, depression, post traumatic disorder, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia.

Mind Body Therapy is the application of principles of mindfulness for wellness and specific health conditions. Mindfulness techniques are able to turn the complex systems of the body toward restorative states, which creates space for deep healing and rebalancing.

Dr. Gurjeet Birdee is a researcher, scientist, physician, and mind body therapist. He is now available for Mind Body Therapy sessions at Ha.Lé.

How Movement Classes Help Manage Pain

Pain conditions change the body, creating deep muscle tension, restricting the breath, and raising levels of stress hormones. Yoga and other systems of therapeutic movement can shift these biological responses to pain, reducing suffering and helping to create health.

Gentle, mindful movements improve balance, coordination, flexibility, strength, and stamina. This helps to release the deep muscle tension that comes from chronic pain, and increases blood and lymph flow through the body, carrying nourishment to stressed tissues.

As tension releases, it becomes easier to breathe. While in pain, the breath becomes shallow and tight as the body stays prepared to protect itself. As the diaphragm and core release excess tension, the breath is able to deepen, which in turn signals the endocrine system that the threat has passed and it is safe to relax. The relaxation response then lowers the levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, allowing the body to switch into nurture and restore mode, where it can focus on healing damage instead of protecting against it.

At Ha.Lé, our classes are accessible to students at all levels and with a wide variety of health concerns. We see firsthand the benefits of regular practice for increasing range of motion, reducing pain, and lowering stress levels, and the sometimes profound improvements in health that can bring.

Treating Arthritis

Arthritis is a very common cause of joint pain, usually caused by worn cartilage that no longer keeps enough of a cushion between the bones of the joint. This in turn causes pain, inflammation, and stiffness. Treatment for arthritis either supports the health of the joint and/or helps to manage the pain.

At Ha.Lé, we have a variety of effective treatments for arthritis pain. Our first recommendation is to come to class. Physical movement in general helps to relieve stiffness and improve circulation. Yoga classes also help realign the joint and strengthen the muscles around it, which can reduce the amount of pressure that contributes to the pain. MELT Method classes focus on hydration of tissues, and dry tissues in the joint can be a big contributing factor for discomfort. By using MELT techniques, those dry tissues can rehydrate, reducing inflammation and providing more cushion between the bones. Finally, Somatics and Feldenkrais classes can help the body learn to move more effortlessly, taking some of the strain off of painful joints and restoring a sense of vitality.

In addition to classes, we recommend bodywork and acupuncture. Bodywork is able to address multiple layers of tissue around the affected joints, easing strain and restoring blood and nutrient flow to the tissues. By addressing issues with muscle tension and adhered fascia, the joint is freed to move more easily, releasing pressure from spaces that don’t have enough cushioning and making movement more sustainable and less painful.

Acupuncture is also helpful for arthritis. It works to regulate pain signals in general, turning down the volume on the body’s alarms. This is especially helpful when pain has become chronic, which means that the pain signals can begin to build on each other, sending louder and louder alarms. Acupuncture is able to help reset this response. It also helps to reduce the inflammation in the joints themselves, which eases discomfort.

Arthritis pain is common and treatable. There are many ways to address the discomfort and reduce the impact of arthritis on daily life, through movement classes, bodywork, and acupuncture. All of these approaches are very safe with few side effects, and have the added effect of increasing your sense of vitality and general well-being.

Acupuncture for Knee Pain

Knee pain is one of the most common types of joint pain, and as the body’s largest joint, it is also one of the most injured. Our knees act as big shock absorbers and so receive a lot of stress and strain every day. Studies have shown that acupuncture is effective in relieving several types of knee pain, including pain from arthritis, overuse, and injury.

Acupuncture begins by helping to increase circulation. By bringing more blood flow, the toxins and fluids that build up due to inflammation can be removed more quickly. This reduces swelling and the pain that swelling causes. As more blood circulates, it also brings more oxygen and nutrients to speed up the tissue repair process.

Next, acupuncture relaxes and loosens painful spots in the muscles and connective tissue. As these “knots” or “trigger points” release, it supports the healing of the tissue. Muscle fibers can take on too much tension as a result of injury and pain, and helping to relax this tension supports the healing process.

Acupuncture also works with the body’s own healing and pain relief process. It helps to regulate pain signals and turn down the volume of the alarm being sent through the nervous system. It releases endorphins, the body’s internal pain medicine, and releases serotonin, the feel good brain chemical.

Treating knee pain with with acupuncture is effective, and combines well with other treatments like bodywork, physical therapy, or prescribed medications. The treatment schedule is usually to come once or twice a week for a few weeks, and then drop down to a maintenance schedule when symptoms have improved. Knee pain can affect everyday mobility and quality of life. Acupuncture can help.

Breema Brings Deep Nurturing and Wholeness

Breema is a set of techniques based on 9 Principles of Harmony. It does not require mental beliefs, only attention to the experience of the body. It provides a way to feel nurtured, rather than drained, by your experiences and relationships.

Breema can be done as self-care, done with a partner, and received as a bodywork. It uses simple forms of natural body movement to free your energy for productive work. Our physical energy is consumed by our mind, body and feelings. Conflicts and tension tie up more of that energy than necessary, and restoring harmony makes it available for other things, like our body’s natural healing processes.

As tension and conflict eases, it restores vitality and suppleness. New movements and postures become available. Mind, body, and feelings are able to create new relationships and function more cooperatively. Mood can regulate, stepping out of the cycle of pleasant and unpleasant states so that the mind can return to being a naturally supportive presence to the body.

Breema is done fully clothed on a padded floor, and brings an experience of wholeness. All our lives we don’t include ourselves in our impressions of life, and we think of our body as discrete, labeled parts like hands, arms, liver, heart, etc. By including the whole self and emphasizing that unity of being, Breema creates an experience. When we move into that experience, we remember that we are all part of a whole, our body parts are all part of our whole, and we are able to release tension and conflict in order to return to harmony.

The experience of Breema makes you simpler, not more complicated. Instead of fighting illness, it works to increase vitality. By moving toward harmony, vitality, and wholeness, Breema treatments restore natural function and bring a deep sense of wellbeing.

Treatments for Neuropathy

Neuropathy is a painful and sometimes severe condition where nerve damage causes pain, tingling, and numbness from affected sensory nerves, and lack of coordination or control in motor nerves. It can be caused by cancer treatment medications, high blood sugar levels, and other conditions, and is most common in the feet and legs. Effective treatment calms the nerves and restores blood and oxygen flow so that the damage can heal.

Acupuncture is one of the most effective treatments for neuropathy, with an over 75% success rate after a course of 4 or 5 weekly treatments. Most people maintain their improvements unless the condition is caused by medication they are still taking. The treatments work to improve nerve conduction and reduce the stagnation of energy in the limbs, restoring balance to the flow of the body.

Bodywork and massage treat neuropathy by focusing on restoring blood circulation to the small vessels that provide oxygen to the nerves in the feet and hands. Without enough oxygen, the nerves malfunction and send signals of pain, tingling, burning, and numbness. Treatments need to be at least 60 min once/week and focus on working as deeply as is comfortable, with the goal of eventually flushing all the stagnant blood out of the tissue. It is also important to do at least 15 min a day of self-massage and range of motion exercises at home to support the detailed work of the treatments and continue to make progress.

Therapeutic movement classes, like yoga and tai chi, strengthen the communication between nerves and brain and also help treat neuropathy. Opening up the front of the body increases oxygenation and improves blood circulation, helping to nourish the affected nerves. Classes also are generally calming to the nervous system, which helps ease the pain symptoms. Regular classes, especially when taken along with other treatments, help keep the pain from getting worse and support the healing process.

Neuropathy is an often painful condition that can be treated, and acupuncture, bodywork and massage, and movement classes like yoga and tai chi all help reduce pain, increase circulation, and support healing for damaged nerves. Because nerve pain is often due to a lack of oxygen, increasing blood flow can go a long way toward easing symptoms and creating health.