On 16/6/2017 I took part in the morning panel of the International Stress Management Association’s (ISMA) annual conference. The question Jeremy Nicholas, the MC for the day, asked me was: As an osteopath, can you give us the benefit of body-treatment in stress management? My succinct answer (or at least trying to) was…
It was at first my patients who pointed this out to me.
Patients mainly go to an osteopath for neck, shoulder or back pain and that wasn’t any different for me 10 years ago when I started my practice.
However, the feedback I received on a second visit weeks or sometimes months later astounded me. Not only did they experience the expected pain relief but also reported to be able to concentrate better, saw things clearer when decision had to be made, some said that they had the same amount of stress but that they were able to handle it much better, like stress didn’t bother them anymore. Some even reported to have more time.
When more and more patients started to report behavioural and mental benefits after a single treatment I started to be intrigued and went searching for an explanation.
We all know that from a biological perspective the stress-response is regulated by the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis.
A gentle touch like in certain massages is proven to increase vagal tone and thus can influence indirectly adrenaline, noradrenalin levels and decrease heart rate, blood pressure and muscular tension.
Certain forms of osteopathy that include craniosacral therapy and fascia therapy have proven to improve ANS balance greatly and influence HPA-axis.
I eventually created the Reaset Approach a novel body-mind and educational stress-management approach and did some research where I used Heart Rate variability measurements, State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) on top of a pain questionnaire I was able to prove that it has an significant influence on all of these.
Question is still, how? As I said before touch plays an important role but also specific body centres like the occiput, frontal bone, and neck are structurally related to the ANS and the temples with the amygdala and pituitary gland.
In stress management and psychotherapy I think osteopathy that includes ANS balancing can make a real sustaining difference.
Patient feedback after a single Osteopathy with Reaset Approach consultation:
Where to begin… First of all I’m feeling much better today than some months ago. I experienced a very difficult period after a death of a loved one. I completely isolated myself from the outside world (family, friends & colleagues…). I went through constant cerebration, throat tightness, anxiety, depressed, black thoughts and loneliness. Those feelings didn’t go away even while close people tried to help me much as they could.
A friend of me advised me to follow a session at an osteopath and got me an appointment.
The first intake was very stressful for me as I didn’t knew what to expect. Tom asked me some questions about my complaints (physically & mental). When Tom started the session I didn’t feel physically & mentally relaxed but when it was finished I really felt a BIG difference. I felt physically relaxed and free in my mind (constant cerebration stopped) and this was the first time I got this feeling after months
Tom is very a GOOD Osteopath, friendly and knows what he is doing and takes the time for it. I’m definitely going back
Once again Tom a BIG THANK YOU for the help during this difficult process I went through, which got my life be back on track
In 2012 a pan-European poll on occupational safety and health asked the question: “Do you think that the number of people suffering from job-stress (in your country) will increase, decrease or stay the same over the next 5 years?” The result was that 77% (8 out of 10) said it would increase and 47% of respondents answered that it would increase a lot.
We are now 2017, 5 years later and people suffering from job-stress did increase. It is estimated that the cost to European businesses and social security systems adds up to €600 billion a year. With this number in mind it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has dubbed stress has the Health epidemic of the 21 century.
In my article “Stress: A conflict between biology and culture” which was published in Executive Secretary magazine earlier this year, I depicted an evolutionary perspective of why stress has become such a nuisance to our health and wellbeing.
In brief I wrote that since we’ve been able to manipulate fire we’ve started to make changes into our environment, to make life easier. The agricultural, industrial and technological revolution followed each other up with increasing speed, radically changing within an extremely short time the fundamental ways we life and work.
While society was focused on modernisation – to make life easier – to get more leisure time by creating ever more sophisticated tools so that things could get done quicker, the contrary has happened. Modernisation has enslaved us, we work harder and longer, the boundaries between work and play have become increasingly blurred, and it has made individualism the dominant mode of thinking. All leading to more stress.
In other words a ‘more comfortable lifestyle’ has created a ‘health adverse lifestyle’ that is making us sicker by the day. Here are a few examples of these comfortable – adverse lifestyle changes:
Access to a car reduced physical activity and most people have jobs where they sit all day and watch tv in the evening reducing physical activity for some to nearly nil.
While physical active has significantly decreased we eat more, especially more fatty and processed food.
Modernisation also came with the idea that for example smoking was good for you… and although everyone knows now that it isn’t, that 80% of all lung cancers are related to it is still promoted.
The rise in technological and economic progress has made life easier but what we didn’t see coming were the adverse effects on our health and wellbeing. While ‘modernisation’ was supposed to increase our quality of life it is instead reducing it. The number of chronic degenerative diseases and mental disorders, especially, coronary heart disease, cancer, stroke, type 2 diabetes, accidents, musculoskeletal disorders, stress, depression and dementia will keep rising if we continue like this.
Another alarming aspect of modernisation is that on the size of our brain. John Hawks a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin explains:
“Over the past 20,000 years, the average volume of the human male brain has decreased from 1,500 cubic centimetres to 1,350 cc, losing a chunk the size of a tennis ball. The female brain has shrunk by about the same proportion. “I’d call that major downsizing in an evolutionary eye-blink,” he says. “This happened in China, Europe, Africa—everywhere we look.” If our brain keeps dwindling at that rate over the next 20,000 years, it will start to approach the size of that found in Homo Erectus, a relative that lived half a million years ago and had a brain volume of only 1,100 cc.”
… and chronic stress and anxiety – if not attended too – will increase that shrinking rate as stress shrinks your brain… (Ensell, et al. 2012)
As an osteopath and stress-coach, I’m very concerned about the detrimental effect of stress on our health and wellbeing, and the influence of the fundamental ways our life and work has changed.
I’ve also started to notice that a new and even more dramatic health problem is arising. While until recently diseases of affluence were effecting people essentially on a physical and mental level, the information revolution and the rise of artificial intelligent devises is causing a rise in problems of a more existential and spiritual nature.
When more and more elements of life are taken over by tools, the very foundations of life, its meaning, purpose and our values are being questioned. I hear and see it every day in my practice that people are struggling with this. Struggling with the pace of life, with just being a number, a link in a chain in which they don’t see or know the end product. There is a deep longing for purpose and meaningfulness in a world were exactly that is taken away and outsourced to technology. It outs itself in a body-mind disconnection, feelings of hopelessness and numbness.
I refer to this as spiritual stress, a stress that arises from a disconnection within oneself as a result of the increase in automation. Spiritual stress and its effects on our health and wellbeing is here and together with the physical and mental health problems it will only rise further if we don’t start to learn from our past mistakes.
It frightens me to think that the current trend for solving the stress epidemic is based on the idea that “if work-related stress is due to the demands on employees being greater then their resources” we need to “increase automation so that the demands on the employees becomes less.”
On first glance this is a very logical solution to the current problem but we’ve just seen that a more comfortable lifestyle has an adverse effect on our health… and brain size!? This will only increase the current problems. We need to start to think differently…
Automation can not be stopped, robots and artificial intelligence is here and are here to stay and that is the way it is. However we have to start to think and find solutions to how to stay healthy in body, mind and spirit in this a more automated world.
Question like: How do we stimulate human evolution? What does my body, mind and spirit need to evolve? What do I really need to be happy and thrive?
If we don’t ask these questions the human race as we know it will go extinct, it will be replaced by transhumans and cyborgs…. is this what we want? Really?????
When I talk to patients about this or raise the question during or after my keynote presentations none have said they are ok with this… all choose the return of a ‘HUMAN’ solution and evolution.
What are your thoughts?
Do you choose humanity, with life as the centre of our Universe or technology?
Tom Meyers is an osteopath, stress coach and visionary in the field of health and wellbeing. He runs a private health practice in Brussels. He’s an inspiring international keynote speaker the topic of ‘Understanding & Managing Stress’. Tom also runs workshops on the ‘Reaset Approach’ a novel manual body-mind and educational health approach he developed. In 2017 he will publish his first self-help and help-others book in which he interlaces soul-purpose, personal development, health and healing into a compelling guide to thrive.
Want to book Tom as a keynote speaker for your upcoming event then fill in the contact form below or get in touch with him through his website reaset.me