#3 - How Meditation Can Help Your Body Heal

As chiropractors, we may help relieve symptoms of common conditions like back and neck pain, sciatica, migraines or plantar fasciitis (1) using techniques such as adjustments, muscle activation, mobilisation, or cold laser.  

Sounds helpful, but at Windsor Chiropractic, we like to go deeper than that. We want to bring you relief from surface symptoms, but we don’t want to stop there, because we know the problem may come back, particularly if the condition is chronic.

That’s why we aim to address the underlying causes of ongoing pain, such as chronic inflammation, by suggesting possible lifestyle changes - like meditation - that can promote your body’s natural healing ability. These lifestyle interventions don’t treat your headaches or back pain directly. Rather, they help improve the adaptability of your autonomic nervous system (ANS), boosting its ability to help your body heal.

Why Meditation?

Meditation provides a chance to unwind from the stress of life, to refocus, and retune your mind and body. It’s one of the 9 Lifestyle Interventions we explore in our Adapt-Ability Workshop.

People have practised meditation down the ages and across different cultures. Major religions often have meditative traditions, including Christianity, Judaism as well as Buddhism and Hinduism. It’s also practised by many people without any religious affiliation, who simply enjoy the results of a practice that helps you slow down and connect your mind and body.

How Do You Meditate?

There are many different ways to meditate. Some of the more common ones include:

  • Loving-kindness meditation: Promote feelings of compassion and love for yourself and others by breathing deeply and repeating warm and loving messages.
  • Progressive meditation: A head-to-toe body scan to release tension and promote relaxation.
  • Mindfulness meditation: Teaches you how to be present in the moment, rather than obsessing over past events or worrying about future ones.
  • Breath-awareness meditation: Focus on breathing slowly and deeply, to calm your body and mind.

Guided Meditations an easy place to start!

It’s often easiest to use a guided meditation, where you listen to a practitioner talk you through a meditation exercise. We recommend Dr Joe Dispenza’s work (because he simply explains the why/how of mediation so well) – you can listen to his free meditation on youtube  or purchase and download or a  great range of  guided meditations if you’d like to try them at home.  

One of my favourite meditations by Dr Joe Dispenza is called ‘Blessing of the Energy Centres’ (Version III ), which involves focusing on seven points or energy centres in the body (Fig. 1).

      To top

       

      Each energy centre/body focus point represents a network of nerves called a plexus.  

        The goal of the meditation is focus on each energy centre, one at time - first to the second centre, to the third, to the fourth, and so on. When done correctly, this process can create an effect called coherence (It took me a while to feel something!).  I have had surprising experiences from this meditation; people including myself, report feeling energy/or charge building throughout their body as they go through the process. To me, it's one of those bio-hacks worth exploring, and I've found positive improvements (in my heart rate variability - HRV - discussed below) utilising this technique.

        The term coherence in physiology occurs when two or more of the body's systems, such as respiration and heart rhythms, become entrained and operate at the same frequency (2) - (Fig. 2).

        The application and intention here with meditation is that a coherence represents a state of optimal function, where a number of different bodily systems synchronise, creating increased order and harmony in both our psychology (mental and emotional) and physiology.

        The HeartMath Institute’s research has focused on ‘coherence’ for years. They describe coherence as a measurable state that is generated from sustained positive emotions. The Heart Math approach to mediation is a much simpler approach called heart focused breathing, combined with positive emotion. This technique is also worth checking out, and they sell technology that actively measures your effectiveness at heart coherence.

        There are so many guided meditations and products on the market, these are just some we have tried (but have no affiliation with).

         

        What Are the Benefits of Meditation?

        Quite simply, meditation can help you manage stress. Studies show that it increases your ability to regulate your emotions and maintain your composure.

        Depending on the type of meditation you practice, the benefits may include:

        • Helping you move past negative emotions
        • Reducing depression and anxiety
        • Improving positive feelings
        • Helping you feel calm and relaxed
        • Managing chronic pain
        • Aiding sleep
        • Lowering blood pressure
        • Improving focus
        • Improving memory
        • Lessening impulsive, emotional reactions
        • Improving your relationships

        Meditation & Adaptability

        Meditation has another very important benefit. As noted above, it improves cognitive functions like memory and focus, and helps you manage stress and its knock-on effects like anxiety or disturbed sleep. Psychological research shows us that people with higher cognitive performance and better psychological stress resilience also tend to have good heart rate variability (HRV), which signifies a well-balanced autonomic nervous system (ANS).

        What does that mean? Your ANS controls important functions like your breathing, heartbeat and digestion – things that happen constantly inside you without any deliberate thought or effort on your part.

        Your ANS also controls your heart rate variability, or the gaps between your heartbeats, which can vary quite a bit as your heart doesn’t beat in a perfectly regular rhythm. Ideally, you want a high HRV with more variation between your heartbeats. This indicates that you have a well-balanced ANS, which adapts easily from a state of stress or excitement back to a state of relaxation. You still get stressed – but you’re able to calm down again, rather than living in an ongoing state of heightened tension.

        That adaptability is good for your health. When your ANS is able to adapt to stress and change, you’ll tend to be less susceptible to inflammation and disease, making you healthier overall. An adaptable ANS is linked to positive health outcomes like mental clarity, athletic performance and strong immune function. The opposite is also true – a poorly functioning ANS puts you at greater risk of many common diseases.

        Adapt-Ability Workshop

        If you’re interested in learning more about how to improve your adaptability, come to one of our regular Adapt-Ability Workshops.

        We'll show you how to proactively manage your current and future health through simple and measurable strategies, including measuring your heart rate variability (HRV). We’ll help you apply 9 Simple Lifestyle Interventions, including meditation, that can be adapted to suit your individual situation.

        You’ll also learn how to measure the effectiveness of those interventions on your overall wellbeing.

         


        DISCLAIMER: All content is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.


        References

        1. https://chiromt.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1746-1340-18-3
        2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4179616/