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Relaxation as treatment for chronic musculoskeletal pain -- a systematic review of randomised controlled studies
Persson AL, Veenhuizen H, Zachrison L, Gard G
Physical Therapy Reviews 2008;13(5):355-365
systematic review

OBJECTIVES: To review studies on relaxation treatment for chronic musculoskeletal pain. METHODS: Searches in the databases PubMed, PEDro, CINAHL, AMED, the electronic library information navigator (ELIN), and the British Medical Journal and ScienceDirect, found 12 relevant studies. Inclusion criteria were: randomised controlled trials (RCTs); studies including a total of at least 25 subjects at the end of intervention; relaxation techniques as single treatment, or combined with education, with the participants being active in the treatment. RESULTS: A total of 12 studies fulfilled all inclusion criteria and were reviewed. Quality assessment showed that all studies were of medium quality. The relaxation techniques used were: progressive muscle relaxation ad modum Jacobson (most common), autogenic training ad modum Schultz, hypnosis, guided imagery and biofeedback. Positive effects were found regarding decreases in pain intensity, anxiety, depression, and fatigue (in fibromyalgia). Even decreases in medication and health costs were seen. Increased mobility and use of coping strategies were also reported. CONCLUSION: Relaxation training could be effective for patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain. The experimental study designs need to be of improved scientific quality and should, for example, include clear self-training relaxation protocols and suitable control groups. RCTs of high quality are necessary.

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