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J Altern Complement Med. 2001;7 Suppl 1:S93-101.

Clinical applications of the relaxation response and mind-body interventions.

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Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


Several hundred peer-reviewed studies in the past 20 years have shown that the relaxation response and mind-body interventions are clinically effective in the treatment of many health problems that are caused or made worse by stress. Recent studies show that mind-body interventions may improve prognosis in coronary heart disease and can enhance immune functioning. It is hypothesized that mind-body interventions reduce sympathetic nervous system activation and increase parasympathetic nervous system activity, and thereby restore homeostasis. Researchers have also concluded that cognitive therapy is as effective, and possibly more effective than antidepressant medication in the treatment of major depression. This report provides an overview of some studies that have shown a beneficial role of the relaxation response and cognitive restructuring in the treatment of headaches, insomnia, and cardiovascular disorders. Studies to date suggest that mind-body interventions are effective and can also provide cost savings in patient treatment. It is also clear, however, that mind-body therapies are not panaceas, and should be used in conjunction with standard medical care.

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