, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 399-411

Sustained effects of biofeedback-assisted relaxation therapy in essential hypertension

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The usefulness of biofeedback-assisted relaxation as an adjunct or substitute for pharmacotherapy in essential hypertension can be enhanced if the effects are shown to persist after formal treatment has ended. Patients with essential hypertension successfully treated with biofeedback-assisted relaxation were recalled for follow-up yearly after the termination of treatment. Twenty-six of 40 patients met the BP criterion for success. At one-, two-, and three-year follow-up, 31%, 38%, and 27% of the successful completers continued to meet the criterion for success. The pretreatment-posttreatment decreases in BP were accompanied by decreases in forehead muscle tension and urinary cortisol. Forehead muscle tension, urinary cortisol, and anxiety levels were significantly lower than pretreatment one year after the end of treatment. Self-report data were used to assess continued relaxation practice. No relationship was found between practice and any other dependent measure. It appears that some patients trained in biofeedback-assisted relaxation can maintain lowered blood pressure, muscle tension, anxiety, and cortisol levels over the long term; however, the role of relaxation practice in maintaining these lowered levels remains unclear.