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The National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Dr. Mary Wykle who works with military personnel suffering from traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder to reduce pain and anxiety and improve balance has made some fascinating discoveries! Her study involves doing Ai Chi, a form of aquatic exercise, in warm water for a series of up to 16 sessions.
“No two patients with brain injuries are alike,” said Wykle. “But what they all have in common is chronic pain, a lot of migraine headaches, anxiety and balance issues. The therapy involves performing soothing and calming movements while the autonomic nervous system is benefiting from a warm-water immersion. Wykle said, “As we work on balance, we hope we can slow down their dizziness, reduce their anxiety and improve cognition.”
Already the researcher is seeing promising results that include a drop in blood pressure and heart rate as well as lower points on the pain scale. “So many of our patients are in the fight or flight mode and we want them to be able to calm down,” she said.
The soothing effect of the warm-water immersion is crucial for this type of therapy because people in this group tend to struggle with the usual land mind-body techniques, such as yoga, tai chi and meditation. “You take someone who is very high strung and you ask them to sit calmly, it doesn’t work very well,” Wykle said.
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