Relaxation and related therapies for people with multiple sclerosis (MS): A systematic review

Author: Ian I Kneebone1, Brooke E Van Zanden1, Diana S Dorstyn2, Rachel M Roberts2, Stephen R Lord3, Dawn Querstret4, Alice Theadom5, David S Kennedy1, Jay Raman1,6, Roshan das Nair7
1 Graduate School of Health, 1994University of Technology Sydney, Australia.
2 School of Psychology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Adelaide, Australia.
3 Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), University of New South Wales, Australia.
4 Faculty of Health, Sport and Applied Science, St Mary's University, UK.
5 Department of Psychology, School of Clinical Sciences, 1410Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand.
6 School of Psychological Sciences, 5982University of Newcastle, Australia.
7 Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, 6123University of Nottingham, UK.
Conference/Journal: Clin Rehabil
Date published: 2022 Apr 12
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1177/02692155221091509. , Word Count: 257

To establish the effectiveness of relaxation and related therapies in treating Multiple Sclerosis related symptoms and sequelae.

Data sources:
PsycINFO, PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global databases were searched.

We included studies from database inception until 31 December 2021 involving adult participants diagnosed with multiple sclerosis or disseminated sclerosis, which featured quantitative data regarding the impact of relaxation interventions on multiple sclerosis-related symptoms and sequelae. Studies which examined multi-modal therapies - relaxation delivered in combination with non-relaxation interventions - were excluded. Risk of bias was assessed using the Revised Risk of Bias tool for randomised trials - ROB2, Risk of Bias in Non-Randomised Studies of Interventions ROBINS-I), and within and between-group effects were calculated (Hedges' g).

Twenty-eight studies met inclusion criteria. Twenty-three of these were randomised controlled trials, with 1246 total participants. This review reports on this data, with non-randomised study data reported in supplemental material. Post -intervention relaxation was associated with medium to large effect-size improvement for depression, anxiety, stress and fatigue. The effects of relaxation were superior to wait-list or no treatment control conditions; however, comparisons with established psychological or physical therapies were mixed. Individual studies reported sustained effects (≤ 6 months) with relaxation for stress, pain and quality of life. Most studies were rated as having a high/serious risk of bias.

There is emerging evidence that relaxation therapies can improve outcomes for persons with multiple sclerosis. Given the high risk of bias found for included studies, stronger conclusions cannot be drawn.

Keywords: autogenic training; meditation; multiple sclerosis; progressive-muscle relaxation; relaxation.

PMID: 35410503 DOI: 10.1177/02692155221091509