Pain happens. Sometimes it starts in the mind, sometimes from an injury. As we live with the discomfort, the true origins of that limp or lower back pain or headache or stiff knee are hard to pin down. We get used to it. We accommodate it; and quite often, our mood is affected by it. Stoicism, finances and, these days, fear of COVID-19 can stop us from seeking help.

The mind-body connection can be described as a person’s feelings, thoughts, or behaviors and how they physically manifest in the body. Thoughts, feelings, beliefs and attitudes can positively or negatively affect biological functioning. Our minds affect how healthy we are. On the flip side, how we manage the body as it relates to nutrition, exercise, and other activities can either benefit or undermine our mental states.

A deep dive into beliefs about mind-body connections is complicated territory. Finding a guide to understand and navigate mental and physical challenges can get you closer to feeling better. Mind-body modalities abound in Sisters. Practitioners offer a wide variety of treatments used to overcome chronic and acute pain.

Kendra Littrell manages the Shibui Spa, known for its tranquility and oasis-like environment. “We specialize in Ayurvedic treatments. Our owner went to school for Ayurvedic medicine,” said Littrell. Ayurveda is the art and science of tuning the body into balance. It harnesses the natural intelligence of the body to bring people into optimal health. “We’re one of a few places that use it on a spa level. We have five different Ayurvedic treatments at Shibui,” said Littrell. After COVID mandated closures, Shibui reopened June 1, to deeply appreciative clients. “We saw clients who were almost in tears… there’s no one hugging and touching. People need touch.” Littrell says people are screened to make sure they are healthy and understand COVID rules. “We want to make sure we are keeping our clients and our employees safe. We’re operating at 50% capacity for physical distancing. Shibui’s therapists are trained in modalities like lymphatic drainage for people recovering from cancer, physical-therapy-type massages and cranial sacral. In the end, it’s all about peace of mind,” said Littrell.

Alana Vernon is a physical therapist and the clinic director for Step & Spine Physical Therapy. She’s learned that a successful treatment plan includes finding the right combination of physical-therapy modalities and exercises that address each patient’s unique circumstances. “We teach patients how our nervous system changes based on what we apply to it. We retrain your brain so it’s not reproducing the pain stimulus. Listen to your body and don’t go so far that it increases pain. You want that perfect spot where you make positive changes without making further harm. We help our patients find that sweet spot, recognizing how their body feels. Too many people ignore what their body feels; or they may be too sensitive and overreact to a sensation that’s normal. You’re training your nervous system with mindful actions. The more your mind recognizes that certain movements are benefiting healing, the faster the physical therapy can make positive changes. We’re trying to get away from medications. There’s the five M’s: meditation, mindfulness, movement, modalities as necessary (ice, heat, laser) and mixing it up. We don’t want to get caught up with a sixth M — monotony. Doing the same thing over and over can be boring, and sometimes harmful. That’s why mixing it up is so important,” said Vernon.

Greg Zadow is the owner of Green Ridge Physical Therapy that just celebrated their 20-year anniversary. Zadow says recent research has shown what all good practitioners have known for years: Whatever intervention you are administering, its affects will be magnified if you can address the whole person and not just their diagnosis.

“Either through manual therapy techniques looking at balancing the sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous systems or specific breathing techniques, visual field exercises or other mindfulness and meditation techniques, we find we’re better able to improve both local areas of pain and dysfunction, while also having inroads to affecting more systemic issues,” said Zadow. “There are great complexities when we look at pain or disease with regard to stress, but I truly believe there are very few conditions that don’t benefit from a mindfulness practice.”

Beth Hummel opened Hummel Laser Therapy last year after a career in nursing and over 15 years as a massage therapist. She created a practice that blends eastern and western medicine. She’s excited about the positive results she’s seeing with the addition of deep tissue heat laser therapy.

“Its whole purpose is to decrease pain and inflammation,” said Hummel. “Being able to continue outdoor activities and staying healthy both mentally and physically is especially needed this last year for self-care. It’s working for my clients and has been very successful at keeping people out and having fun. I love hearing from clients that they’re finally able to get back to the activities they love. People tend to think of using my service only when they’re injured. It’s also effective for clients recovering from surgery, as well as chronic conditions like arthritis. They can finally get back to what they used to do or want to do, and that’s so gratifying.”

Matt Kirchoff is the clinic director for Therapeutic Associates.

“As physical therapists, we frequently find ourselves helping our patients better understand the connection between their bodies and minds as it relates to management of orthopedic conditions. This is particularly important in the management of chronic musculoskeletal pain. Often times these patients have seen numerous providers by the time they land in our office and may have had multiple imaging studies, injections, etc. without any change in the nature of their symptoms,” said Kirchoff.

Therapeutic Associates staff strive to empower patients by educating them on the role stress management, quality sleep, and diet have in the management of chronic musculoskeletal pain.

“Our goal with these patients is to promote self-efficacy in order to get their minds in a place where their bodies will follow.”

Sarah Conroy, of Black Butte Chiropractic, looks at stress to the nervous system, which controls everything including our brain, nerves, and spinal cord.

“It’s constantly dealing with physical and emotional stress. Chiropractic can help with the emotional-mental piece,” said Conroy, who has been in practice for 18 years. “Once you improve the way the spine functions you can improve the way the brain and mind functions… both emotionally and psychologically. Spinal adjustment improves structures but also releases positive hormones, like endorphins, which help the way the mind functions. The mind expands and heals based upon movement. So improving the way a patient is moving improves the mind and functions.”

Conroy sees patients’ moods improve. Their balanced nervous systems cause a positive ripple in their family and community life.

“That’s one of the positive side effects. I help them feel relaxed in our office, that’s when the true healing starts to begin.

Brianna Lattanzi is a professional reflexologist and energy medicine practitioner at Legendary Strategies.

“As a reflexologist, I do a lot of physiology equals psychology. When your feet hurt your energy is affected. With everything going on with viruses and more, having access to relaxation like reflexology can provide help. The edge of your heel relates to the spine. There can be instant gratification of pain. We need healing touch,” said Lattanzi.