Wisdom is knowing and applying information that helps a person live sensibly and make good decisions. A large part of creating sustainable health is the way a patient handles stressful situations in their life. We know from the research of Hans Selye that the human body has a response to ongoing stress, the effects of which can lead to a decreased immune system resulting in physical illness or mental or emotional imbalance. Life has ongoing stressors that cannot be avoided, such as ailing parents, financial swings, and decreasing energy levels that may come with age. There may also be unforeseen incidents such as car accidents, acts of crime, or catastrophic natural disasters.
Fortunately, humans are very resilient. Not only can we help strengthen our systems with proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep, but meditation and body practices at home help keep our homeostatic balancing system internally resilient. Two aspects of wisdom that I have chosen to incorporate into my medical practice and offer to my patients are Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy and Mindfulness.
Osteopathic medicine is a unique form of American medical care that was pioneered in 1874 by Andrew Taylor Still, M.D., who was dissatisfied with the effectiveness of 19th-century medicine. He believed that many of the medications of his day were useless at best and potentially even harmful. Dr. Still was one of the first practitioners of his time to study the attributes of good health so that he could better understand the process of disease. He developed a philosophy of medicine based on ideas that date back to Hippocrates, the father of medicine. That philosophy focuses on the unity of all body parts. Dr. Still identified the musculoskeletal system as a key element of health. He recognized the body’s ability to heal itself and stressed preventive medicine, eating properly, and keeping fit.
Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) is incorporated into the training and practice of osteopathic physicians. With OMT, osteopathic physicians use their hands to diagnose illness and injury and to encourage your body’s natural tendency toward good health. By combining all other available medical options with OMT, a D.O. offers their patients the most comprehensive care available in medicine today.
According to an article written by the Institute of Functional Medicine titled The Science of Meditation:
For thousands of years, cultures have recommended mindful practice as a way to cultivate well-being, and over the last several years, incredible scientific advances have been made to confirm its benefits. While scientific understanding of meditation is still in its infancy, research suggests that mindfulness practice is a powerful modulator of structural and functional brain plasticity. Beyond the brain, meditation has been found to influence physiological variables like heart rate, respiratory rate, systolic blood pressure, and diastolic blood pressure. For healthcare professionals, it is suggested that mindfulness meditation reduces stress, anxiety, and burnout, and enhances resilience.
Poor stress-coping contributes to the development of chronic diseases, and a 2003 study in blood cells found that the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program reduced cytokine secretion, oxidative stress, and DNA damage. Researchers in a 2014 study on gene expression found that after a meditative intervention, there was a decreased expression of pro-inflammatory genes (RIPK2 and COX2) in meditators compared with controls.
Chronic work-related stress is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and mortality. Meta-analysis concluded that work stress can increase the risk of myocardial infarction by 50%. Management of stress and the sympathetic response not only affects hormonal systems but significantly affects neurological, biochemical, and other influences that play a role in pain and systemic metabolic functioning. A study examining the effects of a meditative tai chi program in chronic heart failure participants showed that regular practice had a beneficial effect not only on health-related quality of life and resilience, but also on body mass index and blood pressure levels.