Alternative care and stress

Managing stress

Picture yourself sitting in your special place, breathing in through your nose and exhaling through your mouth, letting your thoughts flow gently in and out like waves lapping on the beach. Buzz, ring, crash, siren. Visualization not working for you in your cube? Perhaps trying something outside the office might help with your stress. Massage, acupressure and acupuncture have all been found to be calming influences and our alternative care discounts will calm your wallet.

Massage

Massage is an ancient healing art that works on the basis that when the body is calmed and relaxed, mental anxiety is lessened. Under severe stress, when muscles are over-worked, the body shows many weakening symptoms such as soreness, stiffness, and even muscle spasms. Heightened stress responses accumulate lactic acid in the muscle and waste air inside the body. It exhausts the body and demotivates the mind to remain energized and active. Benefits of massage:

  • Massage improves circulation of blood and lymphatic fluids. Increased blood flow brings fresh oxygen to body tissues.
  • Increased oxygen flow eliminates waste products from inside the body, and enhances recovery from diseases.
  • Therapeutic massage boosts circulatory and immune systems to benefit blood pressure, circulation, muscle tone, digestion, and skin tone. It also improves the performance of the lungs.
  • As muscle tone improves, so do the nerves that connect them, including the spinal cord, and the brain.
  • Therapeutic massage can promote general well-being, enhance confidence, and self-assuredness.

Acupressure

Acupressure is the needle-less variation of the Chinese healing system acupuncture. When acupoints or meridians (energy pathways) become blocked or congested, a person experiences pains or discomfort on a physical level. On emotional or mental level one may become frustrated or irritable, and on a spiritual level one may experience a sense of feeling ungrounded, vulnerable, and indecisive about life.

In acupressure, practitioners use deep but gentle finger pressure on specific acupoints to release the blocked energy and to facilitate its smooth flow. In effect, this allows your body and mind to relax. Acupressure has been found to be helpful with the following:
  • Daily stress relief
  • Headaches
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Aches and pains
  • Allergies
  • Migraines
  • Menstrual difficulties
  • PMS
  • Menopausal imbalances
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Digestive problems
  • Nausea
  • Gastro-intestinal problems
  • Eye strain
  • Back pain
  • Chronic conditions

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is based on the concept of maintaining balance and harmony within the body by facilitating the flow of life energy in it. When chi (life energy) inside the body becomes stagnant and congested, all kinds of mental and physical illness follow. In order to restore chi distribution, needles are inserted into acupoints along the meridians (energy pathways) of the body.

A large number of neurological and musculoskeletal disorders induced by stress are being successfully treated by acupuncture. According to World Health Organization data, the following list of disorders relating to stress can be effectively treated by acupuncture:
  • Headache and migraine
  • Trigeminal neuralgia
  • Paralysis following stroke
  • Meniere`s disease
  • Neurogenic bladder dysfunction
  • Nocturnal enuresis (bed wetting)
  • Intercostals neuralgia (pain in ribs)
  • Cervicobrachial syndrome (pain radiating from neck to arm)
  • Frozen shoulder or tennis elbow
  • Sciatica
  • Low back pain
Acupuncture is also found to be effective for the treatment of acute and chronic stress induced disorders such as anxiety, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, hypertension, insomnia, PMS, menopausal symptoms and depression.

The principle here is to clear the blocked energy in the muscles and nerve channels, as well as facilitating the flow of fresh energy (extra in-flow of oxygen) in them. This ensures relaxation of muscle and mind, and relief from stress and tensions.

Relaxation techniques and meditation

There are many ways to use structured relaxation techniques to help control stress and improve your physical and mental well-being. While some types of meditation and relaxation therapies are best learned in a class, it's also possible to learn meditation techniques on your own. There are literally hundreds of different types of relaxation methods ranging from audio CDs to group martial arts and fitness classes. The following are only examples of the types of structured programs available that can increase our capacity for relaxation:
  • Autogenic training: Developed in the early 20th century, this technique is based upon passive concentration and awareness of body sensations. Through repetition of so-called autogenic "formulas" one focuses upon different sensations, such as warmth or heaviness, in different regions of the body. Autogenic training has been used by physicians as a part of therapy for many conditions. Popular in Europe (where it is even covered by some insurance plans), this method is currently gaining acceptance in the United States. No particular physical skills or exercises are involved; however, people desiring to learn this technique must be prepared to invest time and patience. Since this technique is slightly more complex than some relaxation methods, a course is generally the best way to learn the method.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is one method of learning to achieve relaxation, control stress responses, or modify the body's reactions through the use of monitoring equipment that provides information from the body which would normally not be available. This method is based upon the principle first advanced in the early 1960s that the autonomic nervous system (the part we don't consciously use) is trainable. For example, instruments can be used to measure heart rate, blood pressure, brain activity, stomach acidity, muscle tension, or other parameters while people experiment with postural changes, breathing techniques, or thinking patterns. By receiving this feedback, one can learn to identify the processes that achieve the desired result, such as reduction in heart rate and blood pressure. Biofeedback is used by many practitioners for a variety of psychological and physical conditions. Because the technique involves the use of measuring devices, it can only be performed by a professional.
  • Imagery: Imagery, sometimes referred to as guided imagery, is the use of pleasant or relaxing images to calm the mind and body. By controlling breathing and visualizing a soothing image, a state of deep relaxation can occur. This method can be learned by anyone and is relatively easy to try out.
  • Meditation techniques: Ranging from practices associated with specific religions or beliefs to methods focusing purely on physical relaxation, meditation is one of the most popular techniques to achieve physical and mental relaxation. There are thousands of different types of meditation, and many can be learned on your own. The meditative state is one in which there is a deep centering and focusing upon the core of one's being; there is a quieting of the mind, emotions, and body. The meditative state can be achieved through structured (as in a daily practice of a routine) or unstructured (for example, while being alone outdoors) activities. While teachers of meditative arts are readily available, some techniques can be learned though books or online tutorials. A form of meditation popularized for several decades is transcendental meditation (TM). TM has the goal of achieving transcendental consciousness (the simplest form of awareness). It is practiced for 15-20 minutes in the mornings and evenings and is relatively easy to learn. Numerous classes and teaching materials are available for beginners. Another variant of a meditation technique has gained popularity in the U.S. since its description in the 1970s by Harvard physician Herbert Benson. This technique involves generation of the so-called relaxation response through the repetition of a word of phrase while quietly seated, 10-20 minutes per day. Designed to evoke the opposite bodily reaction to the stress response (or "fight or flight" reaction), this method carries no religious or spiritual overtones. Its value has been documented in the reduction of blood pressure and other bodily stress responses. Like other forms of meditation, it can be learned on one's own, but time and practice are required to elicit the desired relaxation state.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: Progressive muscle relaxation is a method developed in the 1930s in which muscle groups are tightened and then relaxed in succession. This method is based upon the idea that mental relaxation will be a natural outcome of physical relaxation. Although muscle activity is involved, this technique requires no special skills or conditioning, and it can be learned by almost anyone. Progressive muscle relaxation is generally practiced for 10-20 minutes a day. As with the relaxation response, practice and patience are required for maximum benefits.
  • Qigong: The martial art qigong is an ancient Chinese health-care system that combines physical training (such as isometrics, isotonics, and aerobic conditioning) with Eastern philosophy and relaxation techniques. There are many different kinds of qigong, including medical qigong. Some forms are practiced while standing, sitting, or lying down; others involve structured movements or massage. Over 70 million Chinese practice some form of qigong daily. Qigong has been used for centuries in China for the treatment of a variety of medical conditions. Learning qigong involves time, commitment, patience, and determination, and learning from a master or group is advisable. Since this technique involves physical exertion, check with your doctor before beginning, particularly if you have a chronic medical condition or are over 40 years old.
  • Tai chi: Like qigong, tai chi is a Chinese martial art. It has been termed a kind of "meditation in motion" and is characterized by soft, flowing movements that stress precision and force. Also known as tai chi chuan, this method is thousands of years old. As with qigong, training from a master is necessary to learn the art of tai chi. Again, since motion and force are required, check with your doctor before beginning training.
  • Yoga: There are many forms of yoga, an ancient Indian form of exercise based upon the premise that the body and breathing are connected with the mind. The practice of yoga is thought to be over 5,000 years old. One goal of yoga is to restore balance and harmony to the body and emotions through numerous postural and breathing exercises. Yoga, which means "joining" or "union" in Sanskrit, has been called the "search for the soul" and the "union between the individual and the divine." Among the benefits of yoga are increased flexibility and capability for relaxation. No special level of conditioning is required; yoga can be learned by nearly anyone. Classes, books, and videos are widely available. Those with special or chronic physical conditions will want to get clearance from their doctor before beginning.
Reviewed by William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR on 8/24/2011

Alternative care — a solution for stress

We think it's important for your employees to have alternatives when it comes to the kind of care they receive, which is why we partner with ChooseHealthy™ to offer discounts on acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage therapy and dietitian services.

Your employees and their qualified dependents can take advantage of these discounted services by selecting from the ChooseHealthy™ network of providers. By partnering with a ChooseHealthy provider, members receive a 25 percent discount off of the participating provider's usual and customary fees.

To access the ChooseHealthy™ network, members need to:
  • Select a provider from the ChooseHealthy™ Directory at www.choosehealthy.com/providence or call ChooseHealthy™ member services at 877-335-2746. 
  • Call the participating provider you select to schedule an appointment. Members do not need a physician referral.
  • Pay for services received and any related fees directly to the provider.
There are no claim forms or additional paperwork to complete other than the provider's usual patient history/documentation forms. There are no annual limits to this program, and members may change providers at any time.

Additionally, the provider selected by the member will develop a treatment program if necessary. Participating providers in the American Specialty Health network, or ASH network, are screened and managed by ASH. However, ASH does not review services provided by ASH participating providers under this Affinity Access Program for clinical necessity or efficacy. ASH makes no recommendations, representations, claims or guarantees regarding the services or products.

For more information, members can call ChooseHealthy at 877-335-2746 Monday through Friday, 5 a.m. to 6 p.m., or visit www.choosehealthy.com. Representatives are fluent in Spanish, Korean, Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese as well as 100 other languages through outside support.

Please note: This discount program is not a covered benefit under our medical health plans, but Providence Health Plan does offer a variety of alternative care endorsements to meet your needs. For more information or a quote on an alternative care rider, contact your account manager.