Complementary medicine for the management of chronic stress: Superiority of active versus passive techniques

Department of Clinical Sciences L. Sacco, University of Milano, Italy.
Journal of Hypertension (Impact Factor: 4.72). 11/2009; 27(12):2421-8. DOI: 10.1097/HJH.0b013e3283312c24
Source: PubMed


Recent epidemiological data indicate that chronic stress is an important component of cardiovascular risk, implicitly suggesting that stress management might offer a useful complement to orthodox medical treatment and prevention of hypertension. In this context, information on mechanisms, such as subclinical increases in arterial pressure and sympathetic drive, is well documented. Conversely, evidence on methodologies and comparative efficacy needs to be improved. Accordingly, this study was planned to test the autonomic and subjective effects of two popular modalities of stress management.
We studied 70 patients complaining of stress-related symptoms, avoiding any potential autonomic confounder, such as established hypertension or drug treatment. Patients were divided in three groups: group I (n = 30) followed a breathing-guided relaxation training (active); group II (n = 15) an oriental massage, shiatsu (passive); and group III (n = 25) followed a sham intervention. Subjective effects of stress were assessed by validated questionnaires and autonomic nervous system regulation by spectral analysis of RR interval variability. Factor analysis was used to extract information simultaneously embedded in subjective and functional data.
Although the problem of a greater quantity of treatment procedure in the active group than in the passive group existed, results showed that active relaxation, further to slightly reducing arterial pressure, might be more effective in relieving symptoms of stress and inducing an improved profile of autonomic cardiovascular regulation, as compared with passive massage or sham intervention.
This active technique seems capable of beneficially addressing simultaneously the individual psychological and physiopathological dimensions of stress in clinical settings, with potentially beneficial effects on cardiovascular risk profile.

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    • "Three studies compared two or more treatments with non-random group allocation, rather by preference [20], participants in another study [21] or staff on duty [22]. Lucini et al [20] evaluated Shiatsu for chronic stress; 70 volunteer patients chose either active (relaxation and breathing training), passive (Shiatsu) or sham treatment (stress management information). "
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    ABSTRACT: Shiatsu, similar to acupressure, uses finger pressure, manipulations and stretches, along Traditional Chinese Medicine meridians. Shiatsu is popular in Europe, but lacks reviews on its evidence-base. Acupressure and Shiatsu clinical trials were identified using the MeSH term 'acupressure' in: EBM reviews; AMED; BNI; CINAHL; EMBASE; MEDLINE; PsycARTICLES; Science Direct; Blackwell Synergy; Ingenta Select; Wiley Interscience; Index to Theses and ZETOC. References of articles were checked. Inclusion criteria were Shiatsu or acupressure administered manually/bodily, published after January 1990. Two reviewers performed independent study selection and evaluation of study design and reporting, using standardised checklists (CONSORT, TREND, CASP and STRICTA). Searches identified 1714 publications. Final inclusions were 9 Shiatsu and 71 acupressure studies. A quarter were graded A (highest quality). Shiatsu studies comprised 1 RCT, three controlled non-randomised, one within-subjects, one observational and 3 uncontrolled studies investigating mental and physical health issues. Evidence was of insufficient quantity and quality. Acupressure studies included 2 meta-analyses, 6 systematic reviews and 39 RCTs. Strongest evidence was for pain (particularly dysmenorrhoea, lower back and labour), post-operative nausea and vomiting. Additionally quality evidence found improvements in sleep in institutionalised elderly. Variable/poor quality evidence existed for renal disease symptoms, dementia, stress, anxiety and respiratory conditions. Appraisal tools may be inappropriate for some study designs. Potential biases included focus on UK/USA databases, limited grey literature, and exclusion of qualitative and pre-1989 studies. Evidence is improving in quantity, quality and reporting, but more research is needed, particularly for Shiatsu, where evidence is poor. Acupressure may be beneficial for pain, nausea and vomiting and sleep.
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