The procedure and techniques of relaxation comprises of a range of practices including guided imagery, self-hypothesis, deep breathing, biofeedback and progressive relaxation. All of these practices have similar goals that are to generate response arising from natural relaxing of a body. This is followed by low blood pressure, state of peacefulness and slower breathing.
The relaxation techniques are also known as relaxation response technique. These practices are used to get rid of stress, anxiety or any kind of tension. These techniques help in reducing pain, inducing sleep and keep person's emotions calm and cool. This sheet is based on facts and gives a brief summary of relaxation practices along with suggesting sources (Barnes, Bloom, Nahin, 2007).
Relaxation therapy for Enhancing Health
The relaxation techniques are regarded as very helpful when planning to reduce or prevent symptoms that can cause pain, stress, anxiety and depression. Further, treatment of rising blood pressure, insomnia, labor pain, cardiovascular disease, headache, chronic pain and other chemotherapy effect can be prevented by using relaxation techniques (Barnes, Bloom, Nahin, 2007).
The national health survey 2007 included a broad study and investigation of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). It was concluded that the exercise of deep breathing was commonly used by Americans. It was estimated that 12.7% of adults adopted this practice. Progressive relaxation was used by 2.9% whereas just 2.2% preferred guided imagery. The result shows that majority of the population use book for learning these techniques and did not seek help from practitioner (Barnes, Bloom, Nahin, 2007).
Functioning of Relaxation Therapy
In order to understand relaxation response of a body, it is important to study and observe how the body reacts during stress (Beard et al., 2010).
In condition of stress, the hormones of the body are released, thus producing a "fight-or-flight response:" During this period, breathing and rate of heart beat shoots up and the blood vessels get narrow. This limits or reduces the blood flow. The energy is then transmitted to the parts of body that are ready to react; this could be heart and muscles. This kind of response can be regarded as helpful or positive for a short period of time but can be extremely dangerous if lasts for a long time. A long duration can lead to physical or emotional damage (Beard et al., 2010).
Stress that last for a longer time period or a chronic stress simple reduces the ability of one's body. A person loses strength to fight against any kind of illness. This gives rise to other health problems. Rising blood pressure, stomach ache, and headaches are some of the consequences of chronic stress. Other health condition such as depression, asthma, anxiety can be the result of long-term stress (Beard et al., 2010).
Relaxation response, on the other hand reduces the heart beat, controls bold pressure, and reduces the consumption of oxygen along with the level of hormonal stress. The theory simply explains that if a person keeps in touch with the relaxation techniques, he would be able to fight against any negative effects of stress (Beard et al., 2010).
Current Research on Relaxation Therapy
For the past 3 decades, the interest towards relaxation techniques and response has been positive. The studies are being conducted on how these practices are benefiting the health and mental condition of a human body. The main focus of the research is physical and mental illness. The research further discussed the role of stress both as a cause and factor (Benson et al., 2008).
A few evidences support that the techniques and practices of relaxation play a significant and effective part in the treatment of various disorders. These include (Benson et al., 2008):
Depression: It was discovered in the year 2008 that the best treatment for depression is relaxation techniques and there found to be no other effective treatment as this. However, therapy of cognitive-behavioral is best for the treatment of depression (Jorm et al., 2008).
Anxiety: According to studies, the treatment of panic disorder or phobias can be done through relaxation techniques. In addition to this, these practices are also very useful in overcoming stress or anxiety during medical procedures (Jorm et al., 2008).
Headache: Now the researches have proved that different types of relaxation techniques and biofeedback are considered very helpful in curing headaches of migraine or depression. These body-relaxing techniques are better than any medications which effectively reduce severe and intense types of headaches (Jorm et al., 2008).
Pain: Researches have proved that pain caused by operations and abdominal pains can easily be reduced by various relaxation techniques (Jorm et al., 2008).
Outcomes of the research conducted on body techniques like relaxation in order to treat many types of health problems are not very clear. Following are some of the conditions (Benson et al., 2008):
High blood pressure: A literature review presented in the year 2008 published evidences of using relaxation techniques to cure high blood pressure. It stated that advanced muscle relaxation technique can reduce blood pressure to some extent. Other diseases caused by high blood pressure like heart problems, strokes etc. was not found to be effectively treated by this technique (Benson et al., 2008).
It was observed that an 8-week systematic trial of relaxation technique reduced systolic blood pressure in old people who were hypertensive. Whereas, by using this relaxation methodology patients reduced the hypertension medicines without having high blood pressure (Benson et al., 2008).
Asthma: People having asthma or lungs problem were found to be treated by using relaxation techniques with guided imagery. The patients feel their lungs function is improving and they start feeling relieved from anxiety caused by asthma. This methodology also helps in improving immune function in the asthma patients. More research is required to be conducted regarding this therapy (Benson et al., 2008).
Nausea: Nausea caused due to chemotherapy can also be treated by relaxation techniques (Benson et al., 2008).
Fibromyalgia: Research conducted on preliminary basis reported that the relaxation techniques with guided imagery sometimes proved helpful in reducing pain and fatigue caused by fibromyalgia. More research should be conducted in this context (Benson et al., 2008).
Irritable bowel syndrome: According to few studies, relaxation can prevent the symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) from occurring in the patients. Some researchers think that self-hypothesis can also be used to treat IBS (Benson et al., 2008).
Heart symptoms with heart disease: For preventing heart diseases and angina attacks researchers have preferred relaxation. When relaxation technique is combined with cardiac rehabilitation program then improvement is seen in the patients' conditions. Improvement from this program was seen in the form of reduced blood pressure, increased physiological working and reduction in lipid levels. According to the research, if one gets proper medical care along with relaxation then it is less likely for a person to get a heart attack all over again. But further research is required in relation to this matter (Casey et al., 2009).
Insomnia: Evidence received show that relaxation technique has the potential to treat chronic insomnia (Dusek and Benson, 2009).
Some evidences that have been gathered by the researchers show the efficacy of relaxation technique for treating Temporomandibular disorders (loss of motion and immense pain in jaw joints). Literature review concludes that relaxation technique along with biofeedback bring about better results than the placebo. Better result here means reduction in pain and better jaw functioning (Dusek and Benson, 2009).
Ringing in ears: this condition can be overcome by the patients if they adopt the relaxation technique (Dusek and Benson, 2009).
Smoking cessation: the desire to smoke can be reduced by relaxation (Dusek and Benson, 2009).
Overactive bladder: urinary urgency can be controlled by relaxation and bladder retraining (Dusek and Benson, 2009).
Nightmares: the nightmares which are seen because of unknown reasons and posttraumatic stress can be overcome by relaxation exercise…