Over 115 million adults are dealing with chronic illnesses like cancer, fibromyalgia, heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and others. Chronic illness is not only tough on the body, it’s tough on the brain. There’s often a great deal of stress that accompanies managing a chronic illness, and that stress can further exacerbate the condition by compromising our immune system, throwing our hormones and chemicals out of balance, and depleting our energy reserves. Furthermore, the continuous stress and pain related to being chronically ill can lead to the development of mental health challenges like depression and anxiety, which further impair our ability to engage in health-promoting behaviors, sending us into a downward spiral.
Our integrative neurotherapy services are designed to help you achieve the best quality of life possible despite your illness, as well as help your brain and body enter into a more optimal state for balance and healing. We can also provide functional medicine services and other forms of wellness support to help you get to the underlying roots of your illness and, hopefully, overcome it!
Getting to the roots
In addition to affecting mental and physical health, chronic pain can be highly disruptive to overall brain health. For example, evidence suggests that chronic pain can limit the hippocampus’s ability to create new neurons essential for memory and emotional processing. The hippocampus is an important part of the limbic system and plays a key role in memory consolidation and learning.
The limbic system is also strongly connected to the autonomic nervous system, which is made up of the sympathetic (arousal) and parasympathetic (relaxing) systems. Chronic illness can increase sympathetic responses and inhibit parasympathetic responses, interfering with the body’s homeostatic processes. Chronic illness can affect our sleep, diets, and digestive functioning, as well. These are each important not only for physical health but also for the healthy functioning of key neurological processes like hormone production, concentration, memory, and emotional regulation.
How we can help
At NeuroGrove, the first step of any treatment package is a comprehensive assessment that includes QEEG brain mapping, LORETA 3D neuroimaging, various testing, and a thorough discussion of symptoms and goals. This allows us to assess for brain patterns most commonly associated with chronic illness and fatigue. Both neurofeedback and neurostimulation can be used to restore healthy brainwave activity, calm over-active regions, and improve communication across the brain. Biofeedback is a great tool for learning how to gain more control over our physiological responses like muscle tension, breathing, heart rate, and surface temperature. It can also help to reduce pain and increase tolerance of physiological stimuli.
We also believe in assessing for root causes rather than just treating individual symptoms, as well as supporting the body’s natural abilities to heal and regulate (which chronic illness can disrupt). Our functional medicine services include working collaboratively with you to assess whole-body functioning, completing any relevant testing, and designing a personalized, natural treatment plan.
An important part of that treatment plan is individualized nutritional counseling and working with our supportive wellness coach to help put the plan into action. We also provide specialized movement therapy designed to provide the body with healthy emotional and physical outlets. Because chronic illness can make the body an unsafe or uncomfortable place to be in, movement therapies and mindfulness can be powerful tools to change one’s relationship with their body and the symptoms of their illness. Whichever services you choose to engage with, we will work collaboratively with you to address your healing from an integrative lens and focus on improving your overall brain-body wellness so you can be the best version of you!
What the research says
We are a collection of interrelated systems and there is growing research to suggest that taking a systems-based, integrative approach to healing can help improve symptoms and underlying causes of chronic illnesses.
A recent phase-III, placebo-controlled, randomized study examined the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on 36 patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and chronic pain. MRI neuroimaging revealed a significant increase in functional connectivity after tDCS within the visual medial and the right frontoparietal network being connected with the amygdala, the insula, and the primary somatosensory cortex. These changes were associated with reductions is abdominal pain related to IBD.
In another study, neurofeedback was identified as a potential diagnostic and treatment protocol with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) symptoms. In one case study, the authors applied an EEG neurofeedback biofeedback paradigm as a treatment modality with a CFS patient. Baseline data were acquired using the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised and qualitative and subjective ratings of cognitive improvement. Test results and clinical findings revealed improvements in the patient’s cognitive abilities, functional skill level, and quality of life. The patient showed significant differences in pre- and post-test levels on the Wechsler scale.
For more references on the use of neurotherapy for chronic illness and fatigue, see our Research page.
James, L.C., Folen, R.A. EEG biofeedback as a treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome: a controlled case report. Behav Med. 1996;22(2):77‐81. doi:10.1080/08964289.1996.9933767
Neeb, L., Bayer, A., Bayer, K.-E., Farmer, A., Fiebach, J. B., Siegmund, B., & Volz, M. S. (2019). Transcranial direct current stimulation in inflammatory bowel disease patients modifies resting-state functional connectivity: A RCT. Brain Stimulation, 12(4), 978–980. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brs.2019.03.001