Mind body therapies (MBTs) are promising therapeutic approaches for chronic rheumatic diseases, including fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), and improve both mental and physical health, according to a review titled “Mind body therapies in rehabilitation of patients with rheumatic diseases,” published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practise.
MBTs include both concentration-based therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnosis, and guided imagery, as well as movement-based therapies with a low physical impact. These range from traditional Asian practices like Yoga, Qi Gong, and Tai Chi, to the more recent somatic techniques, including body awareness technique, Mensendieck system, Feldenkrais method, Pilates, Alexander technique, Rosen Method Bodywork, the Rességuier method, and the Body Movement and Perception approach. What all have in common is placing emphasis on the mind’s ability to influence health and disease symptoms, and focusing work more on perception and relaxation than physical exercise.
Angela Del Rosso and Susanna Maddali-Bongi from the Division of Rheumatology, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine at the University of Florence, Italy, gathered the evidence of published studies on the effects of MBTs in FMS patients. Results showed that in this and similar chronic conditions the therapies’ multidisciplinary approach was beneficial, with mindfulness-based stress reduction programs improving FMS patients’ quality of life, pain, anxiety, depression, and somatic complaints.
Specifically, researchers found that Yoga is suitable and efficacious, meeting these patients needs for both exercise and coping skills. Another method, called the Rességuier method — a technique that aims to reach patient awareness and the control of body perceptions to modulate pain responses — was found to reduce the emotional response to pain and to interrupt the vicious “pain-stress” cycle often reported by FMS patients.
Qi Gong, a technique that integrates breathing exercises with mind and body training, improves posture, breathing and concentration with low-impact movements. This technique was seen to help in physical, mental, and emotional rebalancing. Pilates was also suitable for FMS patients, combining sensory awareness with physical anaerobic training, improving strength and flexibility, and reducing muscle tension and stiffness.
The Body Movement and Perception (BMP) method, a technique based on low impact and tailored exercises to improve patient awareness and pain-perception control, was seen by researchers as a “first-step intervention in FMS patients, particularly in subjects with high fatigue and extremely low pain threshold,” who might be unable to handle other approaches.
According to the authors, “to be effective in the management of symptoms MBT should be used at regular cycles, integrated and/or alternated with other rehabilitation methods, and integrated in a multicomponent approach with medical treatment and educational measures.”