thermotherapy

  1. Anxiety can help beat the blues

    Good news for worrywarts: A little anxiety could go a long way.

    A new study finds that one type of anxiety--the kind associated with worry--can actually help you beat depression.

    So while you might be looking for ways to lower your anxiety levels (and really, who isn't?), you might not want to get rid of them altogether.

    Researchers did brain scans of patients with different diagnoses. Some were depressed, but not anxious... while others were anxious, but not depressed. And still others were depressed, but also battling one of the two main types of anxiety: anxious arousal, which is more associated with panic, and anxious apprehension, which leads to worry.

    During the scans, patients were asked to look at words with negative, positive or neutral meanings--and describe not the word, but the color of the word.

    Sounds simple enough, right?

    But those facing only depression or depression with anxious apprehension had a harder time with the task. And while they did it, researchers spotted activity in the region of the brain associated with depression.

    The worriers, on the other hand, had more activity in the region of the brain that helps us speak and communicate, and were better at identifying the colors without focusing on the meanings of the words.

    In other words, the worry appeared to cancel out some of the depression.

    Of course, the study doesn't mean you simply need to tolerate anxiety. After all, high levels of either kind can be life-altering, even crippling.

    If you're looking for some natural relief from severe anxiety, talk to your doctor about some powerful herbal remedies, including St. John's wort, valerian root, gingko and kava.

    Many of these herbal treatments can also help ease depression. Since many people deal with both at the same time, these are some simple, safe and effective ways to get a grip on two awful conditions without adding drug effects to your list of worries.

    And as I mentioned just a few weeks ago, simple deep- breathing exercises can reduce anxiety levels by as much as 50 percent--the same level as drugs and psychotherapy. So can massage and thermotherapy--wrapping the arms and legs in heating pads and hot towels.

    But if you have a little anxiety left over... don't worry so much about your worrying. Not only is a certain amount perfectly normal--as the latest study shows, it just might help keep depression at bay as well.

  2. Beating anxiety without meds

    If you're suffering from anxiety problems, just relax.

    I know... that's a lot easier said than done. But while you might be anxious to get your hands on the next dose of mind-easing meds, the latest research finds several safe, natural alternatives that work just as well as drugs and even visits to the local shrink.

    And it starts with a simple massage--a great stress-buster even for those of us who aren't trying beat anxiety.

    Researchers initially set out to see whether massage therapy would be better than simple relaxation exercises for controlling anxiety.

    One the one hand, those massages proved to be no better than two other alternative treatments, including relaxation. On the other hand, all three natural treatments proved to pack a powerful punch when it came to knocking out anxiety, according to the study published in Depression and Anxiety.

    Researchers randomly assigned 68 patients with generalized anxiety disorder to one of three treatments. One group got to enjoy 10 hour-long massages from a licensed therapist in a pleasant environment. The second group did some deep breathing relaxation exercises while lying down. And the third set of patients was given thermotherapy--that's when the arms and legs are warmed up with heating pads and hot towels.

    All three groups saw their anxiety levels slashed by about 40 percent at the end of treatment, and by 50 percent three months later--improvements that matched previous studies on meds and psychotherapy.

    I wish the researchers had included a true control group-- a set of patients who got no treatment at all, so we could see how these therapies compare to that age-old healer, time. But even with that omission, it's not hard to see the safest options for anxiety.

    And all three of these techniques are cheaper, too.

    In fact, the researchers say the most cost-effective option is relaxation... since all you need is a pleasant place to lie down for some breathing exercises. You can teach yourself some great relaxation techniques by simply checking out some books on the subject from your local library.

    But really, any of those three treatments--relaxation, massage or thermotherapy--are better than drugs or pricey appointments with a psychotherapist.

    And any excuse for a good massage at the end of the day is usually a pretty good one.

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