How much do we know about relaxation techniques?
A substantial amount of research has been done on relaxation techniques. However, for many health conditions, the number or size of the studies has been small, and some studies have been of poor quality.
What do we know about their effectiveness?
These techniques may be helpful in managing a variety of health conditions, including anxiety associated with illnesses or medical procedures, insomnia, labor pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea, and temporomandibular joint dysfunction. Psychological therapies, which may include relaxation techniques, can help manage chronic headaches and other types of chronic pain in children and adolescents. These techniques have also been studied for other conditions, but either they haven't been shown to be useful, research results have been inconsistent, or the evidence is limited.
What do we know about their safety?
These techniques are generally considered safe for healthy people, although there have been a few reports of negative experiences such as increased anxiety. People with serious physical or mental health problems should discuss these techniques with their health care providers.
What Are Relaxation Techniques?
These techniques include a number of practices such as progressive relaxation, guided imagery, biofeedback, self-hypnosis, and deep breathing exercises. The goal is similar in all: to produce the body's natural relaxation response, characterized by slower breathing, lower blood pressure, and a feeling of increased well-being.
Meditation and practices that include meditation with movement, such as yoga and tai chi, can also promote relaxation. You can find information about these practices elsewhere on the NCCIH Web site.
Stress management programs commonly include relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques have also been studied to see whether they might be of value in managing various health problems.
The Importance of Practice
These techniques include the following:
- Autogenic Training
- Biofeedback-Assisted Relaxation
- Deep Breathing or Breathing Exercises
- Guided Imagery
- Progressive Relaxation
What the Science Says About the Effectiveness of Relaxation Methods?
Researchers have evaluated these techniques to see whether they could play a role in managing a variety of health conditions, including the following:
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Menopause Symptoms
- Menstrual Cramps
- Pain in Children and Adolescents
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Ringing in the Ears (Tinnitus)
- Smoking Cessation
- Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction
What the Science Says About the Safety and Side Effects of Relaxation Techniques
These techniques are generally considered safe for healthy people. However, occasionally, people report negative experiences such as increased anxiety, intrusive thoughts, or fear of losing control.
There have been rare reports that certain relaxation techniques might cause or worsen symptoms in people with epilepsy or certain psychiatric conditions, or with a history of abuse or trauma. People with heart disease should talk to their health care provider before doing progressive muscle relaxation.