Did you know that relaxation is one of the most commonly used forms of complementary medicine? In fact, relaxation therapy has been used to treat several medical disorders such as eczema, nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy, high blood pressure, gastroesophageal reflux, epilepsy, irritable bowel syndrome, heart attack, mental health problems and pain (Freeman, 2009).
There are two types of relaxation. One is somatic, which refers to muscle relaxation through listening to the body’s sensations. The second is cognitive relaxation. Cognitive relaxation refers to using a mental image, focusing on a thought, a sound, or breathing. In addition to using a mental focus, the practice of having a nonjudgmental attitude is included. This relaxes the body and the mind at the same time (Freeman, 2009).
When relaxing, the body causes the autonomic system to go into a calm state. The autonomic system is the system that when excited causes the fight-or-flight response. When relaxing, it goes into a resting phase. This resting phase has health benefits on the cardiovascular system and it also boosts the immune system. Relaxation causes a release of endogenous (within the body) opioid type substances called endorphins. This is how pain can be decreased through relaxation (Freeman, 2009).
Freeman, L. (2009). Complementary and alternative medicine: A research-based approach (3rd ed.).
St. Louis, MO: Mosby.