The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Relaxation therapy

Relaxation therapy

What is it?

Relaxation therapy is a behavioral therapy used to relieve psychological stress and fatigue. It can be guided by a therapist or trainer or done alone.

A variety of methods are used in relaxation therapy, and it is often combined with other practices including guided imagery and biofeedback. Relaxation can be achieved using methods including imagery, breathing exercises, focused muscle tensing and relaxing, and others.

Relaxation therapy is used for stress, fatigue, anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). It is also used for fear of social situations (social anxiety and social phobia) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some people try it for pain, including headache and jaw pain associated with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). Other uses included relief of cancer treatment side effects, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure (CHF), metabolic syndrome, and many other conditions.

Natural Medicines rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The Effectiveness ratings for Relaxation Therapy are as follows:

Possibly Effective for…

  • Anxiety. Relaxation therapy helps with some types of anxiety. It seems to help people with generalized anxiety disorder , panic disorders, and situational anxiety. However, relaxation therapy is not as helpful as other therapies for agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is a complex anxiety disorder where the person avoids public places or situations that caused panic in the past.
  • Depression. Relaxation therapy seems to reduce symptoms of depression compared to no treatment. However, it does not work as well as other psychological treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
  • High blood pressure. Relaxation therapy seems to reduce blood pressure by a small amount in people with high blood pressure.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for…

  • Chest pain (angina). Relaxation therapy seems to reduce how often people with reduced blood flow to the heart have chest pain. It also improves their ability to exercise. Relaxation therapy also seems to improve quality of life and ability to walking in women with a specific type of chest pain called cardiac syndrome X.
  • Asthma. Early research shows that relaxation therapy can improve some asthma measures. For example using relaxation therapy seems to reduce the use of rescue inhalers. Relaxation therapy seems to be most helpful when used in addition to standard treatment.
  • Eczema. Progressive muscle relaxation added to standard treatment seems to improve itching, anxiety, and sleep but not eczema severity compared to standard treatment alone.
  • Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Early research shows that massage improves hyperactivity and mood better than relaxation therapy in adolescents with ADHD.
  • Anxiety and pain from testing for breast cancer (breast biopsy). Early research shows that relaxation therapy does not reduce anxiety in women undergoing testing for breast cancer (breast-core needle biopsy).
  • Tiredness from cancer. Early research shows that using relaxation therapy, sleep hygiene, stimulus control, and sleep restriction improves tiredness but not sleep quality women receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Early research shows that relaxation therapy might improve symptoms in people with chronic fatigue syndrome. But it doesn’t seem to work as well as cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Lung disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Early research shows that relaxation therapy improves difficulty breathing, anxiety, and airway blockage in people with COPD. Other early research shows that relaxation therapy is beneficial for COPD when used with training on exercise, nutrition, and smoking cessation.
  • Heart failure . Early research shows that relaxation therapy does not improve symptoms of heart failure. But it does seem to improve mental distress, depression, and quality of life in people with heart failure.
  • Eating disorders. Early research shows that progressive muscle relaxation therapy seems to reduce amount of food eaten after dinner in people who overeat at night.
  • Epilepsy. Early research shows that relaxation therapy does not reduce how often people with epilepsy have seizures.
  • Fibromyalgia. Early research shows that relaxation therapy in combination with other therapies can reduce pain and tender points in people with fibromyalgia.
  • Headache. Most research shows that relaxation therapy improves headache pain and reduces how often headaches happen in children and adults. But many of the studies are flawed.
  • HIV/AIDS. Early research shows that massage, but not relaxation therapy, improves anxiety and depression in in adolescents with HIV.
  • Insomnia. Reading a booklet about sleep hygiene and doing progressive muscle relaxation seems to improve insomnia in postmenopausal women.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Early research shows that adding relaxation therapy to standard care does not improve IBS symptoms compared to only standard therapy.
  • Labor pain. Relaxation therapy might lower pain during early labor. But it doesn’t seem to reduce pain during late or active labor.
  • Low back pain. Early research shows that relaxation therapy improves low back pain in the short-term but is less effective than receiving a massage.
  • Swelling of the arms (lymphedema) following surgery for breast cancer. Adding relaxation therapy to standard therapy for managing swelling of the arms after breast cancer surgery doesn’t seem to reduce swelling more than standard therapy alone.
  • An ear disease with vertigo (Meniere’s disease). Early research shows that relaxation therapy does not improve hearing in people with Meniere’s disease.
  • Menopausal symptoms. Early research shows that relaxation therapy can improve hot flashes, anxiety, depression and sexual dysfunction in post-menopausal women. However, muscle relaxation seems to be less effective than paced breathing training for hot flashes.
  • Heart attack. Some early research shows that relaxation therapy can improve anxiety and well-being, and reduces the chance of other heart-related problems in people after heart attack. However, other research shows that relaxation therapy does not decrease the chance of heart death and another heart attack.
  • Osteoarthritis. Early research shows that Jacobson’s relaxation treatment reduces pain and use of pain medicine compared to control in people with knee or hip osteoarthritis.
  • Depression after giving birth. Early research shows that using relaxation, music, massage, and mother-infant interaction coaching along with other rehabilitation methods improves depression after childbirth.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There is evidence that relaxation therapy can significantly reduce feelings of anger and guilt in people with PTSD.
  • Pregnancy-related problems. Early research shows that relaxation therapy with or without biofeedback lowers blood pressure and reduces admissions to the hospital in pregnant women with high blood pressure. Relaxation therapy also reduces anxiety and leg pain in pregnant women. It is unclear if relaxation therapy improves sleep during pregnancy.
  • A more severe premenstrual syndrome called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Early research shows that relaxation therapy does not improve physical or emotional symptoms of PMDD.
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Early research shows that relaxation therapy improves physical symptoms of PMS.
  • Early labor. Early research shows that relaxation therapy reduces anxiety in pregnant women. However, it does not reduce the chance of early birth or increase the weight of preterm infants.
  • Psychiatric disorders. Early research shows that relaxation therapy does not improve feelings of anxiety or hostility in aggressive adolescents.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Early research shows that adding the Benson Relaxation Technique to standard medicine does not improve most symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis compared to using only medicine. Other early research shows that massage is better than relaxation therapy for improving pain, anxiety, and stress in children with juvenile RA.
  • Social fear. There is some evidence that relaxation therapy works better for social fear than no treatment. But it doesn’t seem to work as well as cognitive therapy or task concentration training.
  • An immune system disease called systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Early research shows that graded exercise therapy is better than relaxation therapy for improving fatigue in people with SLE.
  • A disorder of the jaw called temporomandibular disorder (TMD). Early research shows that relaxation therapy might improve maximum pain and jaw opening in people with TMJ. However, relaxation therapy is not better than using mouth-guards for reducing pain.
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus). Early research shows that relaxation therapy does not reduce distress caused by ringing in the ears . It also doesn’t seem to prevent ringing in the ears from interfering with daily activities.
  • Tourette syndrome. Early research shows that relaxation therapy does not improve tics or behaviors compared to quiet time and awareness training in people with Tourette syndrome.
  • Itching. Early research shows that hypnosis with relaxation therapy improves itching in people with chronic itching.
  • Cancer treatment side effects.
  • Depression.
  • Fatigue.
  • Heart disease.
  • Metabolic syndrome.
  • Pain.
  • Stress.
  • Other conditions.

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of relaxation therapy for these uses.

Relaxation therapy is a behavioral therapy used for psychological stress and fatigue. It is thought that stress results in increased nervous system activity. This could have a negative effect on certain diseases. Relaxation therapy is thought to decrease nervous system activity, slow heart rate, decrease blood pressure, decrease anxiety, improve mood, and give a sense of control in people with medical conditions.

There are no known safety concerns. Relaxation therapy has been safely used in several clinical trials.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: More information is needed to determine whether it’s safe to use relaxation therapy during pregnancy and breast-feeding. But so far there’s no reason to believe that it might be harmful.

It is not known if this treatment interacts with any medicines.

Before using this treatment, talk with your health professional if you take any medications.

There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.

There are no known interactions with foods.

The appropriate or safe use of relaxation therapy depends on several factors such as the condition being treated or the person administering the treatment. Be sure to seek and follow relevant directions from your physician or other healthcare professional before using this treatment.

Abbreviated Muscle Relaxation Therapy, Applied Relaxation, Jacobson Muscle Relaxation, MRT, Muscle Relaxation Training, PMRT, Progressive Muscle Relaxation Training, Progressive Relaxation, Relaxation Appliquée, Relaxation de Jacobson, Relaxation Musculaire Profonde, Relaxation Musculaire Progressive, Relaxation Training, Relaxation Treatment, RT, Terapia de Relajación, Therapeutic Relaxation, Thérapie de Relaxation, Traitement de Relaxation.


 

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