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The therapeutic use of the relaxation response in stress-related diseases.

Tobias Esch, Gregory L. Fricchione, George B. Stefano

Med Sci Monit 2003; 9(2): RA23-34

ID: 4745

The objective of this work was to investigate a possible (therapeutic) connection between the relaxation response (RR) and stress-related diseases. Further, common underlying molecular mechanisms and autoregulatory pathways were examined. For the question of (patho)physiology and significance of RR techniques in the treatment of stress-related diseases, we analyzed peer-reviewed references only. The RR has been shown to be an appropriate and relevant therapeutic tool to counteract several stress-related disease processes and certain health-restrictions, particularly in certain immunological, cardiovascular, and neurodegenerative diseases/mental disorders. Further, common underlying molecular mechanisms may exist that represent a connection between the stress response, pathophysiological findings in stress-related diseases, and physiological changes/autoregulatory pathways described in the RR. Here, constitutive or low-output nitric oxide (NO) production may be involved in a protective or ameliorating context, whereas inducible, high-output NO release may facilitate detrimental disease processes. In mild or early disease states, a high degree of biological and physiological flexibility may still be possible (dynamic balance). Here, the therapeutic use of RR techniques may be considered particularly relevant, and the observable (beneficial) effects may be exerted via activation of constitutive NO pathways. RR techniques, regularly part of professional stress management or mind/body medical settings, represent an important tool to be added to therapeutic strategies dealing with stress-related diseases. Moreover, as part of 'healthy' life-style modifications, they may serve primary (or secondary) prevention. Further studies are necessary to elucidate the complex physiology underlying the RR and its impact upon stress-related disease states.

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