Students of neural therapy learn quickly that psychosomatics are important. And also that the mind can affect the body in a multitude of ways!
Most mind-body phenomena are physiological and serve some utilitarian purpose, e.g. a blush signaling embarrassment or secretion of saliva assisting digestion while enjoying an unhurried meal. (Of course when speaking of "mind" in this context, we mean the emotional part of the mind).
Hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol mediate mind-body phenomena, by provoking a generalized arousal of the whole organism. The autonomic nervous system acts in a more precise way,directing the nervous system's attention to specific areas of the body.
Problems usually arise when a psychosomatic reflex persists longer than the target organ or tissue is capable of responding. The organ (or tissue) then produces a symptom indicating distress. Often the psychosomatic nature of the symptom is not identified and much useless medical and/or other treatment is delivered.
Some of the neurological pathways between the emotional parts of the brain and the body are straightforward, e.g. The unresolved emotion-organ connections described in Chinese medicine and also in Chapter 11 of my book on neural therapy. Others are more indirect and affect the body in roundabout ways. Here is an example of a case I recently saw in my office:
A healthy, physically active, 40 year old woman presented with several months of intermittent numbness of her right hand and forearm. No history of preceding trauma or strain was elicited. The pattern of symptoms and exacerbating activities suggested a diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome.
An osteopathic-type examination of the whole musculoskeletal system was unremarkable except for somatic dysfunction of the upper thoracic spine and tension of the suboccipital muscles. "Arcing" or a sensation of "energy block" was felt in the thoracic diaphragm. (For those unfamiliar with osteopathic terminology, these findings indicated tension in the upper back, disturbed mechanics in the upper thoracic vertebrae, and tension in the suboccipital muscles - incidentally sometimes referred to in Chinese medicine as "worry muscles").
Treatment consisted of osteopathic "unwinding" of the thoracic diaphragm. (An equally effective treatment might have been segmental therapy over the upper thoracic vertebrae). At a follow-up visit a few weeks later, the hand and forearm symptoms had improved by 70%, but similar symptoms had begun to appear on the opposite side. Again somatic dysfunction was detected in the upper thoracic spine and the patient was treated manually as on the first visit. The response to treatment this time was even less - clearly time to look elsewhere!
With recurring somatic dysfunction in the upper thoracic spine and no history of trauma, I usually think of lower chest medical problems, e.g. GE reflux, cardiac or lung disease. Nothing helpful was available from her history, so I began touching the lower anterior chest using autonomic response testing. (For an explanation of this test see Chapter 4 of my Neural Therapy book). A weakening of an indicator muscle appeared when touching the low mid-precordium; a reversal of this weakening occurred when the patient touched her own forehead. This combination of findings indicated a psychosomatic stress on the patient's upper thoracic spine, probably from an unresolved "heartache". (See also Chapter 11).
The patient was gently questioned about heartache in her life. She broke into tears while revealing that her elderly aunt to whom she was very close was slowly dieing of a lung disease.