Friday, February 15, 2013

Building Bridges Over Trauma With Guided Imagery For Cerebral Palsy

Of all the ailments that plague the human body, none has been more difficult to understand and treat than Cerebral Palsy. An in depth study reveals that CP, like the term cancer, is a catch all for a variety of trauma related problems affecting the central nervous system. These are all characterized by some blockage in the processing of commands to muscles that prevent them from the normal carrying out of simple instructions. Sometimes this condition is congenital (pre-natal) or it can occur as a result of some post-natal trauma. Modern imaging techniques are increasingly sophisticated and are getting better and better pictures of the neuroanatomic lesions that cause CP and the disorders associated with it. These barriers to a healthy body are the subject of the bridges referred to in the title. This article is not meant to be a discussion of the disease itself, for those afflicted by it understand the problem very well. Rather, this article is written to describe an exciting new approach to treatment. Instead of exercises carried out by command of the conscious left brain, this will involve exercises carried out totally within the subconscious right brain. The technique of Guided Imagery will be used to send healthy images to the subconscious mind by way of having the patient listen to a CD that conveys these healing images to the patient while in a relaxed state.
The recent development of a technique for embedding both the voice and background music tracks of the CD with a subliminal nine cycles/second beat means the we can now send the message in perfect tuning resonance with the natural electrical frequency of the right brain. This is very helpful in overcoming distractions such as random thoughts or unwanted noises. Thus all the patient has to do is relax, listen and follow the suggestions of the guide's voice coming from the CD. This is what is meant by the term Guided Imagery. One very good consequence of this is that the patient can very effectively do the exercise while enjoying sound sleep. In fact, the narrative of the CD is supported by soft background music that is crafted to induce sleep. While all physical exercises directed by the conscious left brain are necessarily limited by the conditions brought on by the disease, the right brain knows no limitations as this is the world of imagery and imagination. One of the most modern and upbeat concepts associated with mind/body medicine has been proposed by Dr. Herb Benson of Harvard. This is what he calls "remembered wellness" and in many treatment procedures it is worthwhile to call upon the mind to remember conditions as they were before disease struck. To see how this may be invoked in the treatment of CP, let us look at some of the treatment methods currently in use.
Rolfing, named for its founder, Dr. Ida Rolf, involves deep tissue massage of the fasciae that surrounds the muscle tissues. Albeit there have been successes reported with mild cases, there is suspicion that it may even be harmful in severe cases.
The 1940's method of Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais is derived from principles of physics, biomechanics, psychology and martial arts. This involves developing new motor patterns by using gentle active and passive movements accompanied by verbal direction. The objective is to abandon old movement patterns by replacing them with newer, more effective patterns. As one who has practiced guided imagery for almost two decades, it struck me that this is about as close to what might be called guided imagery directed by the left brain as I have ever heard known. It is just a short step to the concept of doing this same thing in the virtual state through visualization. The left brain will retain a memory of the former while the right brain will remember the accomplishments of the latter. Furthermore it is the right brain, not the left that has the precise control over the subtleties of cellular organization and activities. While there is still no definitive confirmation of the efficacy of the Feldenkerais method, it is still widely practiced and the concept retains its appeal.
Aquatic therapy is generally used in conjunction with other forms of therapy. It is highly regarded among therapists. Again, it is worthwhile to note that a patient, in a relaxed state, following the suggestions of the imagery guide can likewise go for a therapeutic, refreshing, healing swim. This will also be remembered by the subconscious mind. Furthermore, it can be done as often as desired from the privacy on one's own home, does not require an actual swimming pool and involves absolutely no expense.
Hippotherapy (horseback riding) is very popular as an adjunct to treatments. This method also focuses on easier movements and responses to such things as weight shifting and postural maintenance due to equilibrium reactions. Again, a very vigorous ride, including jumps, can be enjoyed in the realm of the imagination that is just as real to the subconscious right brain as the hippotherapy is to the conscious left brain. There is likewise something to be said for horseback riding that does not require the usual feeding, grooming and cleaning the stables.
It must be emphasized that, although this is a fascinating concept, it is scarcely out of the starting gate and a long, long way from acceptance in the halls of medicine. Nevertheless it is appealing and enjoys many advantages. The same things are basically true in the CP venue that are true in the cancer applications. Guided imagery is patient friendly, self administered, self scheduled, with no side effects other than a good nights sleep and completely cost free.
Best of all, it will not take sophisticated machines to see progress. Those of us who argue for giving this a try expect to see progress in the smiles on sweet little faces, faces who currently show only diminishing hope. That will be reward enough to more than justify the effort and no amount of medical sophistry will be able to deny it. The nay sayers have already chimed in that this is purely visionary with no demonstrable basis in scientific fact. The best response that I can think of for this all too typical criticism of creative efforts historically is that of Proverbs 29:18, "Where there is no vision, the people perish".

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