Alternative relaxation training for combat P.T.S.D. veterans

Author: Hutton Debra//Liebling David//Leire Richard
Brecksville Veterans Medical Administration Center, Brecksville,Qigong Academy, 8103 Marlborough Ave Cleveland Ohio 44129, USA
Conference/Journal: 3rd World Conf Acad Exch Med Qigong
Date published: 1996
Other: Pages: 149 , Special Notes: Some tables are only in Chinese abstracts. , Word Count: 451

Progressive muscle relaxation training has been used as an important adjunctive tool in treating anxiety disorders (Barlow, 1988; Barlow, Cohen, Waddell, Vermilyea, Klosko,et. al. 1984; Ost, L. G. 1989) however, some research has suggested that relaxation training, or the relaxation state in particular, may promote relaxation induced anxiety (RIA), especially in those individuals suffering from pervasive or generalized anxiety (Heide & Borovec, 1984; Borovec & Grayson, 1980; Raskin, Johnson and Rondstvedt, 1973). This pilot study was conducted to assess the efficacy of an active (qigong Tai-Chi) vs. passive (Jacobson progressive muscle relaxation)relaxation technique in reducing subjective levels of stress and physiological measures of arousal in combat exposed Vietnam veterans. The hypothesis was that an active form of relaxation training such as qigong Tai-Chi would be more beneficial for reducing stress in combat veterans with P. T. S. D. , who generally evidence a pervasive anxiety state and a high incidence of traumatic imagery and thoughts.
Procedure: Eight Vietnam veterans diagnosed with P. T. S. D. and enrolled in a P. T. S. D. recovery program were assigned to a qigong Tai-Chi training group or a progressive muscle relaxation group as part of their treatment program. Each group met weekly for eight training sessions of 50 minutes each. Heart rates and subjective units of distress were obtained before and after each training session. Additionally, subjects were asked to practice relaxation daily and record compliance.
Results: The qigong Tai-Chi group's reduction in subjective stress from pre-to post-training was significantly greater than that of the progressive muscle group, F(1,6)=8. 73, p<. 05., However the groups did not differ in reported subjective stress pre-training, F(1,6)=1.479, p=. 270. There was a trend towards significance in reduction of heart rate from week 1 to week 8 between the groups with the qigong Tai-Chi showing the trend towards greater reduction, F(1,6)=3.145, p=. 127, despite the fact the progressive muscle group had a higher initial heart rates thus giving that group greater chance for reduction, F(1,6)=6.334, p<. 05. Also there was a trend towards significance of the qigong Tai-Chi group evidencing more practice compliance than the progressive muscle group, F(1,6)=3.248, p=.122.
Conclusions and implications: Subjects in the qigong, Tai-Chi group reported a significantly greater level of stress reduction after training compared with their progressive muscle counterparts. Additionally there was a trend for the qigong, Tai-Chi group to practice more often and experience a greater reduction in heart rate compared to their progressive muscle counterparts. The implications of this pilot study are that an active form of relaxation training may be more suitable for individuals suffering from trauma based anxiety. Future research may want to include a more thorough assessment of imagery during specific relaxation training sessions to ascertain if an active training keeps thoughts present focused, thus reducing negative affects and thoughts.