Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
Most relaxation techniques are non-invasive and are generally considered safe in healthy adults. Serious adverse effects have not been reported. It is theorized that anxiety may actually be increased in some individuals using relaxation techniques and that autogenic discharges (sudden, unexpected emotional experiences including pain, heart palpitations, muscle twitching, crying spells, or increased blood pressure) may occur rarely. Scientific evidence is limited in these areas. People with psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia/psychosis should avoid relaxation techniques unless recommended by their primary psychiatric healthcare provider. It is sometimes suggested by practitioners that techniques requiring inward focusing may intensify depressed mood, although scientific evidence is limited in this area.
Jacobson relaxation (flexing specific muscles, holding that position, then relaxing the muscles) should be used cautiously by people with illnesses such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or musculoskeletal injury.
Relaxation therapy is not recommended as the sole treatment approach for potentially serious medical conditions, and it should not delay the time to diagnosis or treatment with more proven techniques.
This information is based on a professional level monograph edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com): Dawn Costa, BA, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Jenna Hollenstein, MS, RD (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Shaina Tanguay-Colucci, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD (Massachusetts General Hospital); Wendy Weissner, BA (Natural Standard Research Collaboration).