No one enjoys going to the doctor and apart from our annual checkup, we would prefer to not have to go. Thankfully, there may be an easy habit to integrate into your everyday life to aid in wellness and staying away from the loathed doctor’s waiting room…deep relaxation techniques.
A recent study lead by Dr. James Stahl, director of the Institute for Technology Assessment at Massachusetts General, claims that deep relaxation techniques, such as yoga and meditation, may also lead to fewer visits to the doctor. Researchers analyzed the data of more than 4,400 patients that were referred by their health care providers to Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston where they received relaxation response training.
One year after their training, these patients' clinical visits had decreased by 42 percent, lab use declined by 44 percent and procedures dropped by 21 percent, compared to the year before training.
Emergency department visits dropped to about 1.7 a year from 3.7 in the year before the intervention.
The relaxation response elicited by practices such as meditation, prayer and yoga is meant to help people counteract the toxic impact of chronic stress by slowing down their breathing and relaxing their muscles. For years, these methods have been proven to help with cardiac function, flexibility, muscle health, not to mention benefits in mental health. “Meditation and yoga reduce stress, which in turn promotes wellness, which in turn reduces seeking and using healthcare resources,” said Stahl, who practices at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire.
Because the study does not account for the cost of care or outcomes of the relaxation training such as to reduce mortality. Since the analysis focuses solely on utilization, we are unable to assess whether the intervention is cost effective.
Although the study does have some limitations, these findings more definitely add to a growing body of evidence that suggests these practices help in the reduction of health care costs or at the very least, utilization!