Biofeedback and control of lupus

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Psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology Review and Commentary

Psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology is a way of framing the unity of mental, neurological, hormonal and immune functions with its many potential applications. PNIE addresses the influence of the cognitive images of the mind (whatever its elusive definition) on the central nervous system and consequent interactions with the endocrine and immune systems. This column explores the manifestations of this psychoneuroimmunoendocrinological theory in experimental and clinical settings.

This is a single case report of a middle-aged female Lupus erythematosus patient with a 5-year history of extreme Raynaud's vasospasm of the thumb and fingers. So severe, in fact, that she had experienced an average of six yearly episodes of .5 cm. necrotic lesions of the thumb and forefinger She participated in an intensive 5-week biofeedback training program. Within four days, she learned to consistently warm her skin temperature several degrees. Episodes of vasospasm promptly ceased, with evidence of firmly established skill within a few months. This report, issued eight years later, had catalogued an average of one necrotic episode yearly, following her biofeedback training. Additionally, her incidence of episodic headache, formerly 10-15 episodes daily, fell to 0-5 daily.

Sappington JT, Fiorito EM. Thermal Biofeedback in Raynaud's Phenomenon Secondary to Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: Long Term Remission of Target Symptoms. Biofeedback Self Regul 1985 Dec; 10(4):335-41.

COMMENT: Biofeedback, relaxation training, and meditation offer a dimension of treatment for many conditions, far beyond conventional options. The basic underlying pathogenic processes in autoimmune problems, such as the Lupus treated here, are not altered by conventional treatment. The corticosteroids and immune suppressant drugs, the standard fare of conventional treatment, do help patients in the advanced, life-threatening stages of many diseases. The approach to these problems with biofeedback used in this case history, actually alters the threshold of responsiveness of the autonomic nervous system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis hormones, and the immune system. The function and structure of the body are changed to reflect a greater normality, allowing the pathological processes to recede, and in some circumstances, disappear. This is the basic premise of alternative, complementary and holistic medicine: helping as the result of basic changes made at a much deeper level of functioning.

Robert Anderson is a semi-retired family physician. Moving gradually from early conventional beginnings, his medical practice took on a more complementary nature as decades passed. He has authored three major books, Stress Power/(1978) and Wellness Medicine (1987), and has published the year-2000, 4th edition of The Scientific Basis for Holistic Medicine, available from American Health Press, Box 5388, Lynnwood, Washington 98043. This database is also available on the internet at http://atlas.uchsc.edu/ article. The password is >> article <<. Updates are added at 6-month intervals. Anderson is also the co-author of The Complete Self-Care Guide to Holistic Medicine, published in 1999. A Clinician's Guide to Complementary Medicine will be published by McGraw-Hill later this year. Anderson is president of the American Board of Holistic Medicine, a past president of the American Holistic Medical Association, former Assistant Clinical Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Washington, and a member of the adjunct faculty of Bastyr University.

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By Robert A. Anderson

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