Mind Over Matters

Studies suggest mind-body surgery prep may reduce anxiety and help healing.

Perlman speaks from experience. A year ago, he underwent hip surgery and turned to hypnotherapy, specifically guided visualization, to reduce his stress and help him manage pain more effectively during recovery. He was released from the hospital earlier than anticipated and was able to better tolerate postsurgery discomfort.

Delrene Gardiner, of Maple Falls, Wash., reports similar benefits after using Huddleston's technique to help her through two surgeries, including a lumpectomy and breast reconstruction.

"Mind-body surgery preparation helps you feel empowered to contribute to the outcome of your surgery," she says. "It really gave me a feeling of control over the process and the outcome."

Perlman points out that mind-body surgery preparation is not a "one-size-fits-all" approach; patients must determine which techniques work best for them. "I think the one caveat is to have an open mind," he says. "I have found that if patients have that attitude, most of the time they are able to find a modality that is supportive of them.

"What people often do is wait until they are really stressed out, and say, well, let me try meditation, maybe that will help," he adds. "Mind-body modalities are like any other tool: you must learn how to use them. The more adept you become, the more effective they will be."

Perlman and Cohen view mind-body surgery preparation as an ideal area for continued study. "It is probably one of the more researched areas of complementary and alternative medicine, and I think it's one of the areas that is most integrated into the conventional healthcare system," Perlman says. "I suspect that we will continue to see more mind-body modalities offered to patients who are undergoing surgery or other treatments in the hospital and in the outpatient setting as well. The literature is not only growing, but so is the acceptance."

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