Previous studies have shown that psychological factors play a role in symptom perception among patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease. This report describes the first controlled study showing the effects of relaxation training on symptom reports and esophageal acid exposure in patients with reflux disease.
Twenty subjects with documented reflux disease were studied during psychologically neutral and stressful tasks, followed immediately by either a relaxation or attention-placebo control intervention.
Stressful tasks, relative to neutral tasks, produced significant increases in blood pressure, subjective ratings of anxiety, and reports of reflux symptoms. Despite increased symptom reports, stressful tasks did not significantly increase objective measures of esophageal acid exposure. Subjects who received a relaxation intervention after the stressful task had significantly lower heart rate values and subjective ratings of anxiety compared with subjects who received the attention-placebo control intervention. Subjects who received relaxation training also had significantly lower reflux symptom ratings and total esophageal acid exposure than subjects who received the attention-placebo control intervention.
Relaxation may be a useful adjunct to traditional antireflux therapy in patients who experience increased symptoms during stress.