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Reducing Stress Can Help You Heal Faster From Surgery

Mar 18, 2008
Surgery is necessary in order to heal from a number of conditions however sometimes its effects on the human body are grossly underestimated. There are many examples of those brave souls who have had a surgical procedure deemed a success by the doctor who performed it only to find out that they needed much more time to recover.

Healing from surgery involves both the mind and the body. Body tissues take a certain time to heal and this is what is usually conveyed by the surgeon. However, the mind also plays a role in healing. Dealing with the psychological stress of surgery can be quite a challenge.

The stress associated with surgery was studied by researchers from Tel Aviv University's Department of Psychology led by Professor Shamgar Ben-Eliyahu. The researchers examined the effects of surgery-related stress on the body. The physical effects of surgery on the body are well known but what about the psychological effects?

According to the researchers the chemicals released by the body in response to fear suppress the immune system. When our minds experience fear our bodies respond by releasing a number of hormones including adrenaline (norepinephrine and epinephrine). The adrenaline helps us to get ready to deal with a threatening situation. It also inhibits our immune systems.

This can lead to problems, especially directly after surgery. This is a time when the body needs to heal from the physical stress of the surgical assault on the tissues. It is also when the body needs to finish the job of the surgeon by destroying what is left of a cancerous tumor. It doesn't help if the immune system is compromised by the effects of psychological fear.

Inhibiting these stress hormones may help in reducing the recurrence of cancer after surgery. Stress-reducing techniques such as those studied in psychoneuroimmunology have been shown to reduce the secretion of adrenaline and improve immune function. These techniques include guided imagery, visualization and meditation. One technique called progressive muscle relaxation is very effective at reducing stress. In this technique patients contract and relax various muscle groups while performing deep breathing. Music can also be used to facilitate the technique.

The results of this study suggest that mind-body healing can become a part of an overall post-surgical healing program. Future patients may not only consult with their surgeons but may also work with practitioners employing mind-body techniques to help to boost the immune system.

Reference:

Brain, Behaviour, and Immunity (2007)
About the Author
Dr. Bruce Forciea is an author, educator and chiropractor. His new book "Unlocking the Healing Code" presents a new paradigm for healing. His site:
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