What Are Relaxation Techniques?
Relaxation 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
Relaxation 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 Techniques
Researchers have evaluated relaxation 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
- Posttraumatic 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
- Relaxation 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.
NCCIH is supporting a variety of studies on relaxation techniques. Examples of topics currently being studied include
- The use of relaxation techniques and other complementary approaches for back pain in real-world health care settings
- Guided imagery and relaxation response training for pain management in hospitalized patients
Who Teaches Relaxation Techniques?
A variety of professionals, including physicians, psychologists, social workers, nurses, and complementary health practitioners, may teach relaxation techniques. Also, people sometimes learn the simpler relaxation techniques on their own.
More to Consider
- If you have severe or long-lasting symptoms of any kind, see your health care provider. You might have a condition that needs to be treated promptly. For example, if depression or anxiety persists, it’s important to seek help from a qualified health care professional.
- Tell all your health care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.