Relaxation Therapy

Relaxation Therapy

PEP Topic 
Hot Flashes

Relaxation therapies differ in philosophy and method. The goal is to use the power of the mind and body to achieve a sense of relaxation and lowered metabolism.  Relaxation therapy interventions may incorporate breathing exercises and may involve relaxing the body. They may employ  diversion or visualization.  Relaxation therapy differs from progressive muscle relaxation in that  the specific technique of sequential muscle relaxation is not necessarily used. Simple visualizaion may involve imagining a relaxing setting and differs from guided imagery. In guided imagery, specific types of mental images are elicited to affect specific aspects of the experience.  Simple relaxation therapy has been examined in anxiety, depression, fatigue, sleep-wake disturbances, and hot flashes. 

Effectiveness Not Established

Research Evidence Summaries

Fenlon, D.R., Corner, J.L., & Haviland, J.S. (2008). A randomized controlled trial of relaxation training to reduce hot flashes in women with primary breast cancer. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 35, 397–405.


Study Purpose:

The study sought to assess the efficacy of relaxation training in reducing the incidence of hot flashes in women with primary breast cancer.

Intervention Characteristics/Basic Study Process:

The intervention group received a single relaxation training session and was instructed to use practice tapes on a daily basis at home for one month; the control group received no intervention.

Sample Characteristics:

The study enrolled150 women from three breast cancer centers in England.

  • Inclusion criteria: Postmenopausal women diagnosed with primary breast cancer and suffering from menopausal hot flashes. Any level of severity was accepted for inclusion in the trial as long as the women found the flashes to be troublesome. Postmenopausal was defined as six months without menstruation.

Study Design:

The study was a randomized controlled trial.

Measurement Instruments/Methods:

The incidence of flashes was measured using a diary, kept by the women, of every flash as it occurred over the period of one week. The women also gave a measure of the severity of each flash using four predefined categories: (a) length of flash, (b) physical manifestation, (c) emotional response, and (d) behavioral response. For each of these domains, four levels of severity (graded 1–4) were assigned, using the Hunter Menopause Scale.


Of 150 women recruited to the trial, 104 women completed it to the primary endpoint at one month, and 97 completed all three months. The incidence and severity of hot flashes, as recorded by diaries, significantly declined over one month (p < 0.001 and p < 0.01, respectively), compared with the control group. Distress caused by flashes also significantly declined in the treatment group over one month (p < 0.01), compared with the contro.l No significant differences between the treatment group and the control group at three months and no changes in anxiety or QOL were reported.


A large amount of attrition marred the trial.