How can sophrology help?

Among the pathologies which have been slow to gain recognition on an institutional level, we can cite the fibromyalgia. However, according to the WHO, 2 to 6% of people in industrialized countries are affected by this disease.

This disease is obviously not new and the number of reported cases has grown steadily in recent years. However, its recognition is relatively recent: the World Health Organization recognized fibromyalgia in 1992. The European Parliament, meanwhile, adopted a declaration at the end of 2008. Thus, behind the pains, sometimes disabling, hide often the distress of certain patients, faced with an ill-informed entourage.

The medical profession today agrees on the need to set multidisciplinary programs in the management of this disease. This is how Dr. Patrick Sichère, rheumatologist, member of the national college of pain physicians, emphasizes in particular the interest of sophrology (Journal of Health, May 10, 2007).

But how can sophrology help people with fibromyalgia?

To answer this question, this disease should be briefly defined.

The term fibromyalgia comes from Latin:

  • “Fibro”: tissues (by extension, connective tissue, tendons)
  • “Myo”: the muscles
  • “Pain”: pain

It is therefore a disease characterized by chronic pain in muscle fibers; these pains being themselves accompanied by a procession of symptoms, such as sleep disturbances, headaches, multiple stiffnesses etc. We thus speak of fibromyalgia syndrome. This disease affects 80% of women and nearly 3 million people in France. With regard to current conventional medicine, there are no objective signs (medical imaging, biological analyzes) that allow it to be clearly identified. For doctors, it is therefore a diagnosis by “elimination” based on subjective signs: pain.

However, recent research indicates hormonal causes, disruptions to the central nervous system, and distal nerve fibers, which can result from emotional shock, trauma, or long-term stress of any kind. Some people, more anxious, stressed or very active, would also be more prone to developing this pathology.

Through this quick explanation, we can glimpse the interest of sophrology, both preventively (stress or anxiety management, for example) and “curative”, in addition to medical treatment.

1) As a preventive measure

We will not dwell too much on the preventive aspect. In fact, managing your stress and emotions, respecting a few hygienic-dietetic rules (do not eat too salty, too sweet…), practicing a physical activity, taking moments of interiority, respecting your sleep cycles … Are not specific to “good practices” for preventing fibromyalgia, but to a multitude of other pathologies. To cite only stress, it is estimated that it can be at the origin of 50 to 70% of diseases: high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety disorders, various functional diseases. This is to say the challenge of prevention for a multitude of diseases!

Recall that sophrology is both a therapy, but also a life philosopher (*). As a preventive measure, our discipline in this case constitutes a pedagogical or even philosophical approach of choice, to be shared and made known, in order to offer “existential patterns” to the greatest number of individuals. It’s really about striving for a more harmonious and balanced life. If this does not protect us from all diseases, at least recognize that it can make our life more pleasant … by re-questioning ourselves and giving us, moreover, a little more sense!

(*) sophrology = science of consciousness (sophro) or sophrology = science of wisdom (sophia)

2) Therapeutically

As we said in the preamble, sophrology is recognized as a discipline of choice, which is part of a multidisciplinary management of fibromyalgia. To sum up, we could speak of a triad around this pathology:

  • muscle and tendon pain, headache
  • associated symptoms: sleep disturbances, illness-related stress, anxiety, loss of interest, endorphin deficiency, etc.
  • a risk of isolation: any disease isolates more or less significantly. In this case, the person with fibromyalgia may no longer go out as much, may cease all or part of his activities (sport, leisure …), may be forced into his work, may fear the gaze of others etc. Isolation and withdrawal may seem particularly harmful, as they contribute to the anxiety-provoking or even depressive component of the disease.

These three components are interdependent: to neglect one would be to strengthen another. However, this is precisely where sophrology can come in!

By the different techniques implemented during a sophrology session applied to fibromyalgia, it is a concrete action:

  • to identify and isolate the pain
  • recognize stress, emotions and associated reactions
  • manage the situation according to reactions and no longer “automatically”
  • to implement basic exercises, independently
  • to reconnect to the body (and not or no longer to the disease!).

Several techniques exist such as basic sophronisation (SB), SDN (sophro displacement of the negative), sophro sensory substitution (SSS = substitute an unpleasant or even painful sensation with a pleasant sensation), positive reinforcement, active oriented imagination etc.

On a strictly physiological level, for example, basic sophrology exercises alone can induce an alpha brain rhythm (sign of increased relaxation). It is also recognized that aerobic activity (that is to say, that which solicits and improves oxygen consumption by the body) is very beneficial for fibromyalgia. However, respiratory techniques precisely allow better oxygenation, having a significant impact on muscle tension and pain. Besides the physical and psychological effects, regular practice stimulates the production of endorphins and regulates certain hormones. The movements performed during dynamic relaxations also contribute to better neuro-muscular relaxation. Finally, static sessions (during which people are in bed, in perfect physical and mental relaxation) make it possible to project themselves positively, by “de-focusing” their pains. The reinforcement of these positive experiences also anchors new conditioning.

All these techniques can be supplemented by more personal work, which goes through the written word: the regular realization of a “negative debriefing” (“putting it into words is as much to take away from bodily experience”) AND the regular realization of ‘a’ positive debriefing ‘(‘ opening your consciousness to everything that goes, to what I have achieved, even if it is minimal ‘).

For this type of pathology, the practice in collective sessions seems really profitable, because it favors the exchanges between participants and… the rupture of the possible isolations due to the disease.

Author: Jean-Michel SCHLUPP, Sophrologist.