Intervention helps postmenopausal women relax

Applied relaxation techniques could help postmenopausal women significantly reduce the number of hot flashes they experience each day, research suggests.

The study of applied relaxation, which is based on teaching women how to find muscle groups in their body and helping them to relax using breathing techniques, also showed that quality of life improved as a result of the intervention.

"The participants were given exercises to practice daily at home," commented co-author Elizabeth Nedstrand (Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Linköping University, Sweden) in a press statement. "The goal was for them to learn to use the method on their own and to be able to manage their own symptoms."

The randomized controlled trial involved 60 healthy postmenopausal women with at least seven moderate-to-severe hot flashes every 24 hours. Of these, 33 women underwent 10 sessions of applied relaxation intervention.

The number of hot flashes experienced by women who undertook the intervention decreased significantly by 5.0 every 24 hours compared with only 1.9 in the control group at 12 weeks, which did not have any relaxation sessions.

At the 3-month follow up, the intervention group still had a significantly reduced number of hot flashes every 24 hours compared with the control group.

Health-related quality of life for vasomotor symptoms, sleep, and memory, assessed using the Women's Health Questionnaire, improved significantly at 12 weeks in women who underwent applied relaxation compared with those who did not.

By contrast, there was no statistically significant difference in salivary cortisol concentration between the two groups, as reported in Menopause.

Seven of every 10 women who undergo the menopause experience hot flashes and sweating at some point. This can last for 5 years or longer for one in 10 women, explained Nedstrand and co-author Lotta Lindh-Åstrand, also from Linköping University. Previous research has suggested that decreasing amounts of estrogen after menopause affects the brain's regulation in the hypothalamus.

"The study confirms that applied relaxation can help women with menopausal troubles," said Nedstrand. "My hope is that women can be offered this treatment in primary care and from private health care providers."

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