Are mind and body connected to each other?

Are mind and body connected to each other?

Are mind and body connected to each other? A dialogue between psychology and osteopathy.

It has long been established and accepted that psychic and somatic functioning are closely related. Despite this, medicine has focused on the study (from a biological point of view) of the body, instead, philosophy and psychology have focused exclusively on the study of mental processes.

The origin of this dichotomy is attributable to western culture. In 600, thanks to the contribution of Descartes, the scenario changes; he distinguishes res cogitans and res extensa.

The first represents matter, consisting of everything observable and measurable; the second, on the other hand, represents thought, which as such cannot be observed. In humans, these two substances find an important meeting point: the pineal gland .

The contribution of the French philosopher has prompted scholars of various disciplines to dwell on the link between mind and body, thus deepening the biological and psychological processes by explaining how they influence each other , determining a condition of well-being or malaise in the person.

The birth of psychosomatic medicine

Over the years psychosomatic medicine was born, having as its object of study the relationship between psyche and soma (such as for example) and the expressions of somatic discomfort triggered by psycho-emotional variables , such as stress, anxiety, anger, etc. The individual is continuously immersed in the environment that surrounds him and can often report somatic symptoms in response to stressful events; the same considerations have been made by osteopathy.


Osteopathy has been defined as a complementary and integrative manual medicine. It was born in the mid-nineteenth century by the pioneer Andrew Taylor Still, an American physician and surgeon, who coined the term “Osteopathy” in 1889 and founded its principles in 1874.

Osteopathy is a system of diagnosis and treatment which, although based on the fundamental sciences and traditional medical knowledge (anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, etc …) does not provide for the use of drugs or the use of surgery but through specific manipulations and techniques proves effective for the prevention, evaluation and treatment of disorders that affect not only the neuro-musculoskeletal system but also the cranio-sacral and visceral system.

Osteopathy does not just suppress the symptom, but searches for the primary cause of clinical manifestations.

A. Still said: “Osteopathy is based on the perfection of nature’s work. When all parts of the human body are in order, we are fine. When they are not, the consequence is disease. When the parts are readjusted the disease gives way to health. The work of the osteopath consists in adjusting the body bringing it from abnormality to normality; after which the anomalous condition gives way to the normal condition and health is the result “.

Osteopathic philosophy is based on three fundamental principles:

  • The human being is a fundamental unit, whose health is correlated with the body, mind and spirit;
  • The organism has the ability to regulate itself and tends towards self-healing;
  • There is an inseparable link between structure and function.

Physical symptoms related to mental processes

The unconscious mind can perpetuate physical symptoms that begin with a clear physical cause. As George Engel pointed out in 1977, that all patients with a disease have physical, psychological, and social components that interact in complex relationships affecting the appearance, course and outcome of their disease; this author is considered the founder of the biopsychosocial model. According to this model, the disease is given by a series of causes and causes (biological, psychological and social) that influence each other.

The experience of the disease has a powerful effect on individuals and, for some patients, it can become the determining factor in the final result. Furthermore, factors such as social support, stable life situations and personality factors have been shown to play an important role in health outcomes .

The longitudinal study of Alameda found that individuals with higher levels of social support (i.e. those married, belonging to religious or social groups, or who have close friends) had a 50% lower mortality over the course of 9 years.

Personality factors have also been shown to influence the development of certain diseases. In fact, the study conducted by the doctors and lawyers of the University of North Carolina showed that those who reported higher levels of anger and hostility during college courses were more likely to develop myocardial infarcts and had higher mortality rates during life.

Dr. Sarno studied the theory that the response to stressful and emotional situations, whether conscious or not, was the real cause of the symptoms observed in many of his patients. He developed a psychoeducational approach for such patients and has had good results in the treatment of patients with chronic musculoskeletal symptoms.

In addition, he found that many patients reported improvements in concomitant symptoms in other systems (e.g. gastrointestinal, genitourinary) and psychiatric symptoms (e.g. anxiety, depression, insomnia, fatigue) together with musculoskeletal symptoms when some of the problems underlying psychological factors were identified and addressed. The key component of this approach, however, is not in the psychological treatment modalities, but in the recognition that while the physical symptoms are real, these symptoms are not due to a pathological body disorder, but are caused by mental processes , and therefore, they can be treated with a purely psychological approach.

In the psychological field, once the psychic origin of the somatic symptoms has been ascertained, it is important that effective strategies are identified to help the patient manage the psychological and emotional factors that would generate the physical symptoms that have been mentioned above; as, in accordance with the definition of the WHO, health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not the simple absence of the state of illness or infirmity”.

What does osteopathy treat?

Osteopathy is particularly effective in functional disorders and pains, such as:

  • Vertebral and osteo-articular pains, ailments and pathologies
  • Neurological disorders: neuralgia, neurovegetative and sensory dysfunctions
  • Visceral disorders
  • Muscle, joint, ligament, disc, degenerative, and trauma outcomes (example: whiplash)
  • The postpartum sequelae
  • The post-operative sequelae
  • Treatment of patients in the geriatric age
  • Childhood motor and brain disorders related to suffering during childbirth
  • The occluded-postural and orthodontic problems
  • Cranio-mandibular dysfunctions
  • Functional disorders of sleep, digestion, the menstrual cycle.

Osteopathy is a manual medicine and a recognized prevention and treatment system that respects the relationship between body, mind and spirit both in health and in disease, placing the emphasis on the structural and functional integrity of the body as a necessary condition for the individual can self-regulate.

Patient management

During patient treatment, it is essential that the practitioner is aware of the likelihood that psychosomatic disorders will occur in most people during their lifetime. An accurate medical history and physical examination should include investigating potential organic and functional disorders , i.e. examining not only the signs of nerve root compression, cancer or infections, but also determining the psychological and social factors that may have led to this. set of symptoms.

The question that needs to be asked is: “ What was happening in the patient’s life when these symptoms appeared? “.

For patients presenting with recent headaches, intestinal or bladder symptoms or painful conditions that do not have a clear pathological condition, a certain amount of investigation into the stress factors and underlying emotions may be needed to find guilt, anger, fear, resentment . Once a psychosomatic condition is diagnosed, management should consist of the following:

  • Avoid excessive rest and disability. Encourage routine activities and exercise;
  • Reassure about the lack of serious diseases and inform the patient about his condition. A useful term is “mind-body syndrome”. Emphasize that this syndrome is real and that the symptoms are treatable.
  • Explain how this mind-body syndrome causes real symptoms and how physiological mechanisms in the brain and body create this vicious circle.
  • Consider consulting the patient with a psychologist who specializes in this condition that can help the patient understand and deal with his or her stressful factors of childhood and adulthood.