Holistic Care after Paralysis

Posted by Nurse Linda in Life After Paralysis on August 16, 2022 # Health

Holistic carecare is providing treatment to individuals to enhance their entire well-being. Sometimes, in medical care, health issues are examined as a single issue, and specific treatments are provided just for that concern. But there are other areas of care that are also needed. These include internal and external aspects of health and healing. Holistic care is a way of treating the whole human rather than parts. It considers care for body, mind, and spirit.

You may not have had an experience in holistic care, perhaps have had experience with it but did not realize it or are an active participant in holistic care right now. In thinking about your healthcare experiences, perhaps there was a provider, physician, nurse, therapist, or another team member with which you interacted that just made such a difference in their approach. That special connection is the foundation of holistic care in that they resonated with you both physically in providing your care and in the approach and delivery of the care. Sometimes, we just think of those interactions as people on the same wavelength, but it is really their consideration for you as a human. The way they interact with you is the foundation of holistic care. They might not have even known they were practicing holistic care, but it was there.

Florence Nightingale was one of the first healthcare workers in the modern age to look at more than just the issue of illness. She nursed in the Crimean war, where wounded soldiers were brought to an area to heal their war wounds. They were placed in a dark building, in close quarters, with little attention to their condition. She had the nurses talk with the patients about general things, create a clean environment, wash wounds and bodies, and provide clean linens and natural light into the area. She also captured a new idea – washing your hands between patients. Her concepts include care of mind, body, and spirit.

This was not a new idea in the world. For years, individuals in India have practiced Ayurveda which includes the concept of mind, body, and soul as being one connected aspect of health and wellness. All three areas must be treated for healing of health.

Now, you might be reading this and think this is not for me. However, many of you are interested in different ideas, perhaps have not felt like you have been fully treated for your condition or are just looking for something else to help you in your healing journey. Here are some holistic treatments that may resonate with you. Perhaps you will want to try them just to see how it works, or perhaps you will want to learn more about some of them. Regardless of your decision, always be sure to talk with your healthcare professional to ensure your treatments complement each other and that you are not undertaking something that will contradict your current medical treatment. Individuals react to treatments in different ways. There can be conflicts with your medications or therapies, so always check to ensure the holistic treatment applies to your uniqueness.

Energy

It has been a long-held belief by many, including health professionals, that the body consists of energy. Metabolism is one kind of energy, nerve transmissions are another, cardiac function is another, and many more exist. These are thought of as vibrations that are constantly changing and being emitted by the body.

Therapeutic touch is widely used in many healthcare settings to balance the energy fields of the body for relaxation and healing. Energy fields consist of layers of varying frequencies. The closest is for the body, the next outer layer of energy is for thoughts, followed by feelings, and the most external layer is for the spirit. Within individual energy, fields are Chakras that help move energy through the body. The practitioner places their hands close to your body to mobilize your energy. Any two individuals in close proximity will have an interaction of their energy fields which can result in positive energy. There is an extensive amount of research conducted about therapeutic touch. Synthesis of some of the research with further explanation of this treatment can be found in this free research article.

Imagery

Another method to obtain a goal, such as health, is to imagine the outcome that is desired. This has been used in many goal attainments, such as sports performances and educational goals. Picturing yourself making a goal in an athletic competition or receiving a diploma in an academic setting are examples. In health, you may create an image of a healed wound, your white blood cells destroying bacteria in your bladder, or other goals that you have for yourself.

Imagery includes positive thinking but also incorporates all five senses (touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste). Begin with a step-by-step plan to reach your goal but include all five senses in each step. If your goal is to increase your mobility, it can be easy to imagine moving your leg, but you also need to imagine how it would feel, to see what that would look like, and what you might hear, smell, and taste. When I move my leg, I don’t really smell or taste anything, but perhaps if I had not moved my leg in a while, the action might create some perspiration. Sometimes when I move my leg, my knee pops. I hear that and feel that. This is the type of detail imagery requires.

I used imagery when working on a graduate degree. It was very helpful, picturing my major professor handing me that diploma when things were tough. That image was extremely motivating. If you are interested in learning more about motor imagery and research that can be applied to any form of paralysis, there is an article about motor imagery after stroke here.

Meditation

Many individuals practice meditation which brings awareness to everyday random and wild thoughts. Through the relaxation of meditation, you can reduce the stress response in the body, and experience greater peace and creativity. There are many forms of meditation. Transcendental, some yoga, and mindfulness, among others. Responses are said to include decreased blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, cardiac dysrhythmias, stimulation of the immune system, and increases in brain alpha waves. Notice this will not treat your high blood pressure or heart conditions but may help your body overall.

Learning to meditate requires some instruction from an educated practitioner. They can help you select the meditation style that will work best for you. Your commitment is to practice meditation on a daily basis is needed to achieve results. Meditation is difficult to achieve on your own due to the nuances of the therapy. An educated practitioner can lead you away from pitfalls and toward accomplishment. A review of research and mindfulness meditation for chronic pain can be found here.

Senses

Another way to practice holistic care is to enhance your senses. Light and color have been used for health promotion. Heliotherapy (natural light) was used by the ancient Greeks, as it is today. Sunlight has been demonstrated to reduce seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a mental health issue for individuals who live in areas without much sunlight or night workers, by regulating serotonin and melatonin. It converts vitamin D into the body.

Color can affect our mood. There is extensive research about colors exciting us (reds) or calming us (blues and greens). You will see a lot of red in fast foods because it excites our minds and bodies to eat more. Tranquil scenes always include more blues and greens. People tend to relax in the country due to the tranquility of the blue and green landscape.

Sound can also relax or excite. An action film or upbeat music can raise your acuity and action, whereas slower, more sedate films and music tend to calm and relax. Studies are underway for children and teens as to what type of music challenges and relaxes different age groups. Here is a sample of research about music and depression.

Touch Therapies

Touching another person can be quite helpful, depending on how that person receives touch. A touch on the hand may indicate a sincere connection with another. Some people are huggers, but that can also be intrusive as, for many, a hug can be an invasive situation. For individuals who do not have sensation in their hands, touching is not satisfying but can also be a huge invasion. Individuals with decreased sensation should always be asked if you may touch them. The touch should be in an area with sensation.

Therapies that include touch are reflexology (the practice of use of specific pressure points on the ears, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet that relate to specific areas of the body), massage (enhances circulation, lymph flow, digestion, and elimination), and acupressure (use of the pad of the thumb to acupuncture sites to connect with different parts of the body). These therapies should be discussed with your health professional to ensure a hidden blood clot will not be dislodged, or damage will occur to an injured nerve or muscle. All these therapies use touch to trigger reactions in the body for relaxation and healing.

More information about these therapies can be found here:

If you are looking for something more to enhance your healthcare experience, these are some ideas to connect the mind, body, and spirit. There are others. Be sure to discuss your thoughts with your healthcare professional and locate a legitimate healthcare provider for these treatments. Some may be covered by your health insurance provider. Check your benefits to ensure coverage. Some psychologists also practice some of these treatments.

Pediatric Consideration:

Children and teens can benefit from holistic care. These treatments can assist with learning techniques for stress reduction, anxiety reduction, and relaxation, as well as connecting mind, body, and spirit. Many of these techniques have not been researched in young children but may have evidence of practice in teens. Understanding the processes of each of these therapies can help your child, and you select what would be best for them.

Linda Schultz is a leader, teacher, and provider of rehabilitation nursing for over 30 years. In fact, Nurse Linda worked closely with Christopher Reeve on his recovery and has been advocating for the Reeve Foundation ever since.

In our community, Nurse Linda is a blogger where she focuses on contributing functional advice, providing the "how-to" on integrating various healthcare improvements into daily life, and answering your specific questions. Read her blogs here.

And if you want more Nurse Linda, sign up for her monthly webinars here. Don’t worry, we archive her answers so you can refer back and sift through her advice. Consider it Nurse Linda on-demand!

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.