Mind-Body Treatments

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: April 2023

Mind-body treatments focus on the relationship between the mind and body. They are activities or practices that increase awareness and relaxation. Mind-body therapies can help with coping skills, physical symptoms, and emotional distress of multiple sclerosis (MS). They can be practiced daily, sometimes even multiple times a day.1

Mind-body treatments for MS

Some mind-body treatments involve a trained professional, like a massage therapist or tai chi instructor. Others, like meditation and mindfulness practices, can be done on your own. The list of all activities that fall under the mind-body treatments is long. However, some common ones are yoga, meditation, and mindfulness.1

Yoga

Yoga is an ancient Indian practice. It combines physical posing of the body with purposeful breathing and mental focus. In yoga, people use their breath to guide the way their body moves.2,3

Yoga practices can vary depending on the person doing them. Yoga can be relaxing, with a focus on seated poses and breathing. Other forms can be more challenging. These require better balance and more strength. Yoga is accessible to nearly all people in some form. For those who need a lower-intensity practice, there are many options. Yoga can even be done in a seated position from a chair or wheelchair. This practice is often called adaptive yoga.2,3

Benefits of yoga for people with MS

Practicing yoga can lead to many physical benefits. It can improve:2-4

Some have even reported improvements in bladder function after starting yoga. Yoga also provides mental and emotional benefits. It can reduce anxiety and depression as well as help with coping skills and stress relief.2-4

Things to think about before starting yoga

Most yoga practices are led by an instructor. This person often has years of experience practicing yoga and teaching others. Taking the time to find a respected instructor and place to practice can help you get the most out of your yoga sessions.2,3

Keep in mind that any physical activity leads to increases in body temperature. Being too warm can cause a sudden worsening of multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms. This is called Uhthoff's sign (Uhthoff's phenomenon). Drinking cold beverages, wearing cooling vests, taking breaks, and practicing yoga in a cool room can all help keep your body temperature down while doing any physical activity.5

Since there is some physical activity involved in most types of yoga, talk with your doctor before starting. They can help you decide what type of practice is best for you.

Meditation and mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness both focus on the way the mind behaves in order to gain some control over it. The idea is to help you become less reactive to what happens to you every day. They can be practiced alone, together, or with other activities like yoga.6-8

What is meditation?

Meditation involves quieting the mind. During meditation, a person notices their thoughts and allows them to come and go until the mind comes to rest. They do not judge their thoughts or themselves for having them. They simply notice the thoughts and then let them go. Many people use voice recordings, videos, or trained experts to lead guided meditations. Meditation, like yoga, is something to be practiced over time.7

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is often considered a type of meditation. It involves being fully aware of your body, thoughts, and surroundings. When you practice mindfulness, you notice what you are thinking and feeling. You also may notice what you are seeing, hearing, and touching. For example, you can practice mindfulness while taking a walk. You may pay extra attention to the way the air smells or the color of the leaves on the trees. You may focus on how your feet feel on the ground or what emotions you are having.6,8

Benefits of meditation and mindfulness for people with MS

Like yoga, meditation and mindfulness have many mental and emotional benefits. They can help:6-10

  • Reduce pain
  • Reduce stress
  • Help with anxiety and depression
  • Improve overall quality of life
  • Help you cope with new symptoms or sensations

Meditation and mindfulness are easy to practice anywhere. Many phone apps, websites, and videos offer guided meditations or mindfulness sessions. There also are more formal classes for those who want something more structured. Some doctors are even able to work on these skills with those they treat.6-8

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