Relaxation Techniques

Rating

Category: Life Style Options

Injury Type: Acute

What is it?

Relaxation techniques are tools for coping with stress and promoting long-term health by slowing the body and quieting the mind. Such techniques generally entail: refocusing attention (by, for example, noticing areas of tension); increasing body awareness; and exercises (such as meditation) to connect the body and mind. Used daily, these practices may over time lead to a healthier perspective on stressful circumstances and coping with pain.

How does it work?

A 'relaxation response' refers to changes that occur in the body when it is in a deep state of relaxation. These changes may include decreased blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and rate of breathing, as well as feelings of being calm and in control. Learning the relaxation response may help to counter the ill effects of the fight or flight response and, over time, allow the development of a greater state of alertness. The relaxation response may be developed through a number of techniques, including progressive muscle relaxation.

Is it effective?

There are no studies assessing the effectiveness of relaxation therapies on reducing whiplash symptoms. Studies show that relaxation techniques can help to reduce low back pain. Recent guidelines published in the United Kingdom suggest that relaxation may be considered for reducing pain in the first two weeks after injury. A recent study used relaxation as a part of a physical treatment in the form of flotation. Six patients with chronic whiplash (symptoms persisting more than 3 months following whiplash injury) were involved in this study which involved floating in warm water and relaxing the whole body. Subjects involved in this study reported improvement to their symptoms in the short term, however more evidence is required regarding the effectiveness of relaxation techniques as an isolated treatment in the management of whiplash.

Are there any disadvantages?

There are no reported disadvantages associated with relaxation.

Where do you get it?

Community groups often run relaxation classes. There are also therapists who teach relaxation. These are listed in the Relaxation Therapy section of the Yellow Pages.

Recommendations

The use of relaxation for whiplash cannot be recommended because of a the lack of scientific evidence. More research is required.

Key References

  • American College of Physicians 2007, 'Non-pharmacologic Therapies for Acute and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Review of the Evidence for an American Pain Society', Annals of Internal Medicine, vol. 147, pp. 492-504.
  • Cotter, AC, Memmo, P & Kim, N 2002, 'Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the Treatment of Whiplash Disorders', in Whiplash, eds GA Malanga & S Nadler, Hanley and Belfus Inc., Philadelphia, pp. 373-391.
  • Edebol, H, Bood, S & Norlander, T 2008, 'Chronic whiplash-associated disorders and their treatment using flotation-rest (restricted environmental stimulation technique)', Qualitative Health Research, vol 18, no. 4, pp. 480-488.
  • Leaver, AM, Refshauge, KM, Maher, CG & McAuley, JH 2010, 'Conservative interventions provide short-term relief for non-specific neck pain: a systematic review', Journal of Physiotherapy, vol. 56, pp. 73–85.
  • Moore, A, Jackson, A, Jordon, J, Hammersley, S, Hill, J, Mercer, C, Smith, C, Thompson, J, Woby, S & Hudson, A 2005, Clinical guidelines for the physiotherapy management of Whiplash Associated Disorder, The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, London.
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