Sgt Meisner suffers from anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder and is being treated at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center. He has received an unusual intervention for a military hospital: Transcendental Meditation.Researchers at Eisenhower and at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University recently published a study that showed that those suffering from PTSD did better on managing their symptoms and medication use than those who did not follow the practice.
Of those service members who chose the meditation, 84 percent stabilized, reduced or even stopped their medication use versus 59 percent of those who did not follow the practice. About 11
percent who meditated did increase their medication use versus 40.5 percent who did not practice the meditation.
The response has varied and depends in part on how dedicated the patient is to practicing it, but for some there have been dramatic responses where they have given up their medication altogether, said Dr. John L. Rigg, the director of the traumatic brain injury clinic at Eisenhower.
The techniques help them calm the mind, and because the body and mind are very intimately connected, the body responds to that and blood pressure drops. There are many biochemical changes as well that have been shown by previous research, such as stress hormone levels decreasing, and there’s also changes that take place in the electrical activity of the brain and many other physiological changes that take place.
In this type of chronic stress the soldiers are experiencing from PTSD, there is a “hyperactivation” of the sympathetic nervous system, or the fight or flight response, that leads to that overreaction. Rigg calls it the “animal instinctual reactive survival brain” that is always the fastest to respond.
“Your fight or flight (response) will kick in before you assess what is actually going down,” he said. “That’s magnified a thousand times in a soldier who has been in an environment where somebody is trying to kill him on a daily basis. If they can be clear enough to know that is a reaction not an action, their animal brain is going first, then they can get in touch with that human intelligent brain.”
Those kinds of “mind-body medicine” techniques the clinic offers, which also include yoga and other stress reduction techniques, take some adjustment for tough-minded military people, Rigg said.
“You’ve got to get buy-in,” he said. “It is very non-traditional military-type treatment.”
But the response in the clinic to approaches that don’t rely on drugs has been “very positive,” Rigg said.
The Department of Defense is funding a randomized clinical control trial at the San Diego Veterans Healthcare System to compare the technique to exposure therapy and education. It could take something like that to convince the military to offer the meditation technique more widely.
The current study, published in the journal Military Medicine, involved only 74 patients and was a retrospective chart review. It points to a compelling finding, but those findings need to verified in a large clinical trial.
If validated by the military, it would be useful to teach it to soldiers before deployment.
Source: The augusta chronicle. Read full article here.