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Stress, Mental Health, Insomnia, Inflammation and Illness

Most of us experience stress at some point in our lives, however, long term, or chronic, stress, is an increasing problem in the Western world.  A recent UK survey found that 74% of adults (81% of women, and 67% of men) said that in the past year, they had been overwhelmed or unable to cope due to stress (1).  In 2016/17 12.5 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in the UK alone (2).

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Stress and physical health

Stress is the common risk factor in 75-90% of diseases (3) and there is a well established link between stress and anxiety, insomnia and mental illness and also Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Long term or repeated bouts of stress have an impact on the immune system, raising the risk of infection. Stress  can also lead an increased risk of diabetes due the change in insulin uptake, high blood pressure and heart disease due to plaque build-up in the arteries, the development of cancer, IBS and other digestive disorders due to alteration of acid levels in the stomach (4).  Stress can also reduce the likelihood of conceiving when trying to get pregnant- possibly by as much as 30% (5).  Research is beginning to show that inflammation may contribute to many diseases. Stress causes inflammation (6).

Complementary / Holistic therapies such as Aromatherapy, Massage and Reflexology, can be useful in the management of stress.  This has historically been seen as a rather minor achievement when comparing holistic therapies to Medical healthcare.  However, in the light of recent findings regarding the link between stress, mental health, inflammation and disease, Complementary Therapies are finally being given greater respect, with more research being done in this area. 

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My Research

Whilst studying for my degree in Complementary Healthcare, I conducted my graduate placement at a residential emergency mental health support facility, working with clients experiencing a range of severe mental health issues, using Massage, Reflexology and Aromatherapy to help reduce stress and anxiety.  My  research project was a pilot study using aromatherapy massage to treat long term primary insomnia.

Mental Health

1 in 4 people in the UK will experience some form of mental health issue this year.  If you are one of those people, it is important to get help with your first step being your GP.  Opening up to close family or friends is also recommended. The mental health charity - MIND are a good resource https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/

Further Reading:

(1) https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/may/14/three-in-four-britons-felt-overwhelmed-by-stress-survey-reveals

(2)https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00316/full 

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-help/about-cancer/treatment/complementary-alternative/therapies/reflexology

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341916/ 

(4) https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-indicates-stress-may-delay-women-getting-pregnant

https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/29/5/1067/2913997

(5) https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00316/full

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/tantalizing-clues-point-to-inflammations-role-in-an-array-of-diseases/

(6) http://www.ifaroma.org/files/9114/3930/0258/Massage_World_Article_-_Stress_and_Aromatherapy.pdf

(7) http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress/ 

Further reading and research

This is just a selection of research in these fields – however, please bear in mind that researching complementary therapies is chronically underfunded and it is notoriously difficult to research many therapies at the level required by double blind trials, due to the hands on nature of therapies- placebos are sometimes impossible. For this reason, many of the studies listed here would not necessarily be considered to constitute evidence of effectiveness of the treatment involved.

 

ALZHEIMER’S/DEMENTIA

Aromatherapy, massage and Dementia

https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/treatments/alternative-therapies/aromatherapy-massage 

Massage and touch for Dementia

 http://cochranelibrary-wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004989.pub2/abstract

ANXIETY; STRESS; DISTRESS; LOW MOOD

1 in 4 people in the UK will experience some form of mental health issue this year.  If you are one of those people, it is important to get help - the first step is your GP. Opening up to close family or friends is also recommended. The mental health charity MIND are a good resource https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/

 

Aromatherapy

Stress and Aromatherapy: 

http://www.ifaroma.org/files/9114/3930/0258/Massage_World_Article_-_Stress_and_Aromatherapy.pdf

Autonomic system responses to odours:

https://academic.oup.com/chemse/article/27/8/703/387697

Clinical aromatherapy for emotional distress

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18935936

Actions of essential oils on the central nervous system

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ffj.2045

Aromatherapy Facts and Fictions: A Scientific Analysis of Olfactory Effects on Mood, Physiology and Behavior.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19125379

Ambient odor of orange and lavender reduce anxiety and improve mood in a dental office. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16095639

Modulation of cognitive performance and mood by aromas of peppermint and ylang-ylang. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16095639

Reduction of Mental Stress with Lavender Odorant.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11806592

Complementary and alternative treatments for late-life depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance: a review of randomized controlled trials.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17960959

The Use of Massage Therapy for Reducing Pain, Anxiety, and Depression in Oncological Palliative Care Patients: A Narrative Review of the Literature

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3168862/

 

Massage

Complementary and alternative medicine for sleep disturbances in older adults. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18035236

Physiological responses to touch massage in healthy volunteers. http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/20638912

Newborns of depressed mothers who received moderate versus light pressure massage during pregnancy

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0163638305000755

Massage therapy effects on depressed pregnant women https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01674820412331282231

Effects of Aroma Inhalation Therapy on Stress, Anxiety, Depression, and the Autonomic Nervous System in High-risk Pregnant Women

https://kjwhn.org/search.php?where=aview&id=10.4069/kjwhn.2017.23.1.33&code=2102KJWHN&vmode=REF

 

CANCER PATIENTS

http://www.velindrecc.wales.nhs.uk/complementary-therapies

Aromatherapy

Effects of Aromatherapy on Depression, Anxiety and the Autonomic Nervous System in Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Adjuvant Radiotherapy.

https://kjwhn.org/search.php?where=aview&id=10.4069/kjwhn.2017.23.1.33&code=2102KJWHN&vmode=REF

Massage

The Use of Massage Therapy for Reducing Pain, Anxiety, and Depression in Oncological Palliative Care Patients: A Narrative Review of the Literature.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3168862/

Reflexology

Cancer treatment and complementary and alternative therapies.

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-help/about-cancer/treatment/complementary-alternative/therapies/reflexology

Use of reflexology in managing oedema.

http://www.tenovus.org.uk/research/innovation-grants-2012/use-of-reflexology-in-managing-lymphoedema

http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/991/news/33017

 

COGNITIVE FUNCTION; ATTENTION; MEMORY

Aromatherapy

The influence of essential oils on human attention 1: Alertness. https://academic.oup.com/chemse/article/26/3/239/295115

Cognitive Facilitation Following Intentional Odor Exposure. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/c10f/4a25116c264ffb87b3b08374bb5987ee6ec2.pdf

EMOTIONAL RESPONSE TO AROMA MEMORY

Aromatherapy

Emotion experienced during encoding enhances odor retrieval cue effectiveness. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.468.5852&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Unconcious odour conditioning in human subjects.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6640017

INSOMNIA

Aromatherapy

The Influence of Odorants on Respiratory Patterns in Sleep. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19917590

Clinical implications of the causal relationship between insomnia and depression: how individually tailored treatment of sleeping difficulties could prevent the onset of depression. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3405397/

Unconscious odour conditioning in human subjects

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0301051183900200

The sleep-enhancing effect of valerian inhalation and sleep-shortening effect of lemon inhalation.

https://academic.oup.com/chemse/article/31/8/731/363897

Non-pharmacologic treatment of chronic insomnia.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10617176

Complementary and alternative treatments for late-life depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17960959

 

MRSA

Aromatherapy

The effect of essential oils on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus using a dressing model.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15555788

 

PAIN

Aromatherapy

The Effectiveness of Aromatherapy in Reducing Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5192342/

Effects of odor on pain perception: Deciphering the roles of emotion and attention. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14581116

Massage

The Use of Massage Therapy for Reducing Pain, Anxiety, and Depression in Oncological Palliative Care Patients: A Narrative Review of the Literature

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3168862/

PREGNANCY, CHILDBIRTH, NEW MOTHERS

Massage

Pregnancy and labor massage

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2870995/

Complementary therapies for labour and birth study: a randomised controlled trial of antenatal integrative medicine for pain management in labour

http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/7/e010691

Read to find out how to do perineal massage during pregnancy and for information on the benefits of massaging the perineum before childbirth.

https://www.nct.org.uk/pregnancy/perineal-massage

Newborns of depressed mothers who received moderate versus light pressure massage during pregnancy

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0163638305000755

Massage therapy effects on depressed pregnant women https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01674820412331282231

Effects of Aroma Inhalation Therapy on Stress, Anxiety, Depression, and the Autonomic Nervous System in High-risk Pregnant Women

https://kjwhn.org/search.php?where=aview&id=10.4069/kjwhn.2017.23.1.33&code=2102KJWHN&vmode=REF

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