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Stress Reduction Therapy Prevents M.S. Brain Lesions

Posted in: Conditions
By Dr. Pantea Etminan, NHD
Jul 12, 2012 - 9:29:27 PM

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According to National Institute of Child of Health & Human Development of the National Institute of Health grant in support of the study done for multi sclerosis patients, this would be the very first study to show stress counseling which would stop lesions in MS patients. The supporting co-authors of include Bruce Cohen and Juned Siddique. This is a study done in Chicago according to Northwestern Medicine of research.

A weekly stress management program for patients with multiple sclerosis (M.S.) prevented the development of new brain lesions, a marker of the disease's activity in the brain, according to new Northwestern Medicine research. Brain lesions in M.S. often precede flare-ups of symptoms such as loss of vision or use of limbs or pain.

"This is the first time counseling or psychotherapy has been shown to affect the development of new brain lesions," said David Mohr, principal investigator of the study and professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "In M.S., the prevention of new brain lesions is an important marker used to judge how effective medications are."

"The new finding is an important step and the strongest evidence we have to date that stress is involved in M.S.," Mohr added.

The results indicate that stress management therapy may be a useful adjunct treatment with drug therapy for M.S., but a larger clinical trial is needed to confirm this, Mohr said.
The study is published in the July 11, 2012 issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Mohr's previous research showed a connection between psychological distress and the development of new brain lesions. Stress is one of many factors, he said, that influence whether the underlying M.S. disease processes escalate to the point of a new lesion or a relapse. Mohr has spent more than a decade studying the link between emotional distress, including a study on depression, and M.S.

For an event to be stressful, a person has to feel it is a threat to something important, and that he or she doesn't have any control over it.

"We taught patients strategies to evaluate how much of a threat something truly is," Mohr said. "When people overestimate the threat of an event or underestimate their ability to manage it, we teach them how to evaluate their own thinking about the stress and how to challenge and change that thinking to a more realistic and helpful appraisal of the actual threat. That often leads to improved ability to manage stressful events."
Patients also were taught how to calm their physical reactions to stress through relaxation and meditation to cope with stressful events that couldn't be avoided.

In the national clinical trial, 121 patients were randomized to receive stress management therapy for M.S. or be in a control group. Those in the therapy group received 16 sessions over a 24-week period during which they were taught coping skills to enhance their ability to prevent stressful events from occurring and to improve their capacity to manage their responses to stressful events that did arise. They also received a 24-week post-treatment follow-up. Two-thirds of the patients were women, who have a higher incidence of M.S.
MRI neuroimaging showed the stress management therapy reduced two types of new brain lesions common in multiple sclerosis.

The first type, gadolinium-enhancing brain lesions, indicates a breakdown of the blood-brain barrier, allowing the immune system access to attack and damage brain cells. Gadolinium is injected into an M.S. patient during the MRI and can be observed passing through the blood-brain barrier, if these types of lesions are present. These lesions may disappear over time or may leave more permanent damage in the brain.
The second type, a T2 brain lesion, is a more global marker of the effect of M.S. on the brain and is a more permanent lesion. These markers are commonly used in evaluating M.S. medications in Phase II trials. If the lesions are decreased, the implication is the drug is working.

Among patients who received stress management therapy, 55 percent had a new gadolinium-enhancing brain lesion during the treatment period, compared to 77 percent of those in the control group. Similarly, 43 percent receiving stress management therapy had a new T2 brain lesion during the treatment period, compared to 70 percent in the control group. The stress reduction prevented new lesions whether or not the patients were taking M.S. disease-modifying medications (e.g., beta-interferons or glatiramer acetate).
But the improvement in brain lesions didn't last after the stress management program ended.

"This suggests that we will need to develop treatments that are more sustainable over longer periods of time," Mohr said. "It's difficult for people to come in for treatment once a week over long periods of time, due both to cost and time constraints. We are looking at telemedicine programs that can be delivered via a computer or a smart-phone to people in their environment at much lower costs than traditional therapy."
The study did not show a statistical difference in the rate of clinical M.S. symptoms, but Mohr said he didn't expect one in such a small number of participants. The outcome goal of this trial was only to see if the stress reduction affected the brain lesions.
While the results are positive, Mohr said, it's premature to make recommendations for patients regarding use of stress management therapy. "I don't want to see patients decide not to take their medication and use this instead," he emphasized.
Mohr is an author for stress management manuals for patients and therapists published by Oxford Press.

What Could We Conclude?

As we could take in consideration, there are studies and tasks being done on MS disease that have proven to work and be positive which are part of the natures bodily system. This is proof to human kind that there is potential that the body could heal itself and recover, even from an Autoimmune disease, such as MS if given the chance and applied the right techniques, tools and ways that are part of the human body's nature already. Of course, this study indicates the use of pharmaceutical drugs in addition, but we can easily take in consideration that there is potential that there would be no need for them if appropriate techniques could be established and applied. This may take a lot more effort than taking medications, but we must always keep in mind that the system is composed of more components and factors than just one. Nutrients which would include the nutritional value of the system have great impact on the whole body and how it operates. In disease, we have found and seen that deficiencies of nutrients have led to major or even simple body imbalances and issues. This would show us the importance of having a balanced nutrient which would allow the body to not only stay in optimal health but heal itself as well.
On another note, it is clear that if we challenge the bodily system in an appropriate way it can be of a positive nature and work towards healing itself. Furthermore, this is more proof of how important exercise is to human body (not only physical but mental as well). I could even go further more to state that, human's psychological state should be considered and would have an important effect on the whole system. As humans, if we believe and apply ourselves to what we want to achieve, we, would most certainly, have better success than if we were to become hopeless and not be in good psychological and spiritual standing. This has been seen and proven in many different techniques and therapies around the world. Ancient medicine has much understanding and proof of this in itself.

It is of great hope and value that science continues to practice and try different techniques to seek treatment for MS. We must stay in the positive and have hope. Meanwhile, we must not forget the importance of nature and allowing the body to heal itself by providing what nature has meant for itself to begin with. Ancient medicine is thousands of years old--has tried many different factors and techniques, including natural medicine, which we could all benefit from while keeping our eyes open for any new ways that science may come up with.


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