The process of wound healing is a long one that varies from person to circumstance. Thanks to medical advances, a variety of wound dressings are available on the market to expedite the healing process under a customizable approach. The memory of receiving the wound, or other unresolved stress the comes along with the process of an injured body region can place large amounts of stress onto the body and mind, which can delay the healing process. Kathy Gruver started her professional journey as a massage therapist but soon realized what her patients needed most was a health practitioner. Having received her PhD under a focus of the mind/body relationship, she continues to practice and heal today by combining the strengths of medicine and mind.
Let’s talk about wound healing. What is going on in the body as it tries to repair?
Tissue and chemicals gather in the area where the healing is required. White blood cells produce collagen and then tissue starts to form in the wound and then new skin covers it. With muscles, scar tissue will help repair tears and fill in openings.
Healing from a wound is a mental and emotional journey, too. What can be going through the mind at this time?
So much of that is going to depend on the personality of the person, the mental state generally, the stress level over all, and what caused the wound. Is it from a cancer scar and a radical mastectomy, or was it a surgery that was elective and welcoming? A car accident is going to produce a different mental state than the reconstruction you’ve always dreamt of. I always ask my clients if they feel like they have healed emotionally and spiritually from any accidents and injuries. It makes a difference. If you are still mad at the person that ran you down in the cross walk, you may heal physically but carry emotional scars from it or the body may have complications and take longer to heal. The body will heal more efficiently and the mind will stay healthy and strong if you address the healing on all levels of body, mind and spirit.
How does the mental and emotional state of the body affect the healing process?
Stress causes wounds to heal more slowly and can also affect the immune system, so anything we can do to reduce both external stress and our own internal stress will benefit the body. Holding on to emotions like anger and resentment can increase pain and then lead to things like depression.
Besides dressings and medicine, what can promote wound healing, and what can diminish it?
I love to recommend using affirmations such as “I heal quickly and easily,” “my body is efficient and strong,” etc. Visualization is huge in healing, and it’s very customizable. I picture a little construction worker who brings tools and works on the area. You can picture ice melting for swelling and inflammation, ants carrying something away, angels swooping in or just light, and healing moving to the area. Reiki is a hands on healing energy technique that has been shown to speed healing. Acupuncture is great and massage can help (after a certain period of time) to help with scar tissue. As far as diminishing it, negative self talk, bad food, stress, and not resting long enough will prevent progress.
How powerful and relevant are these other aspects to the healing process in comparison to medicine and dressings?
I think they are incredibly powerful. I have used the above mentioned practices after accidents and surgeries and my doctor’s have been stunned at how quickly I’ve healed. And frankly, decreasing stress and increasing positivity in the life is never a bad thing. Even if it helps 10% why would we not do it? There are no side effects, no prescription necessary, and it feels good.
How is Western medicine shaped and perceived in comparison to Eastern?
Western for the most part deals only with the physical. It doesn’t acknowledge the power of thoughts and words. That is changing though, as more people turn to alternatives for healing.
Does one have something that the other lacks?
Oh yes, most definitely. I think they are all tools that should be in our box. There are times I need my chiropractor and times I need a RX. I would like to see all these modalities used in conjunction. Just doing one thing and ignoring all others simply is cheating ourselves out of the full spectrum of healing. Let’s integrate everything.
You encourage mind-body healing techniques including meditation, mindfulness, and visualization. What would you say to those who are skeptical or resistant to these approaches?
They work. There are no side effects or co-pays. They feel good. There is no reason not to try them, and there are studies to back up their efficacy. And they are becoming more and more mainstream.
Any last words?
Just as you try to put the best food into your body, put the best thoughts and images into your mind. The mind is so powerful for healing and we’re only beginning to explore it. Go for it!