A variety of therapeutic approaches exist to address the diverse set of symptoms present in schizophrenia. The most common include antipsychotic medication and psychiatric treatment. Psychological distress is high in people with schizophrenia. They often have significant cognitive and functional impairment and can experience high levels of anxiety as a result. Communicating with others, successfully steering through social interactions, and even living independently can all be challenging things for people living with schizophrenia. Elevated anxiety and stress can create a compounding effect and exacerbate existing symptoms. In recent years, clinicians and researchers have begun to explore and analyze other methods of treatment that can be used in conjunction with existing treatment modalities.
Muscle relaxation is one such technique. Similar to yoga and mindfulness-based practices, muscle relaxation focuses on the physiological response to symptoms and teaches clients how to manage their somatic response to stress and anxiety. Because this technique has only recently been applied to psychosis, Davy Vancampfort of the Research Centre for Adapted Physical Activity and Psychomotor Rehabilitation at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium wanted to examine how effective muscle relaxation was compared to treatment as usual. He assessed data from the existing body of work on progressive muscle relaxation and was able to review the outcomes of 146 participants. The results revealed that the relaxation technique successfully reduced both anxiety and distress which indirectly improved overall well-being.
Vancampfort was not able to review the difference between muscle relaxation alone and in conjunction with other treatment, nor was he able to validate sustainability of positive outcomes because no existing research focused on these issues. Finally, Vancampfort could not find any research addressing symptom relapse versus remission for clients practicing muscle relaxation. The results of this study, which is the first to isolate this technique and test its efficacy on the specific symptoms of psychological distress and anxiety, clearly show that muscle relaxation is a viable option for individuals with schizophrenia. Additionally, symptoms of other psychotic issues could potentially be reduced through similar treatments. “Finally,” added Vancampfort, “Studies are sorely needed that assess adherence to, and durability and outcomes of, longer-term progressive muscle relaxation treatment.”
Vancampfort, Davy, et al. (2013). Progressive muscle relaxation in persons with schizophrenia: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Clinical Rehabilitation 27.4 (2013): 291-8. ProQuest. Web.
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