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Meditation and Relaxation: What Works

Presently, the largest body of research in MindBody medicine is in the area of meditation and relaxation, and many of the studies are on TM. Following are some of the relevant studies.


  • In a randomized clinical trial conducted in Israel by Cooper in 1978, meditation significantly reduced both systolic (higher number) and diastolic (lower number) blood pressure.


  • At the University of Massachusetts, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn conducted a study of patients with a variety of chronic diseases who engaged in an eight-week program of meditation. Participants in the program experienced less pain, anxiety, and depression than patients treated with conventional medications.


  • Based on a 1987 study by Dr. David Orme-Johnson, meditators were found to utilize medical care services 30 to 87 percent less than nonmeditators.


  • From a study by Dr. Charles Alexander and Dr. Robert Schneider in 1996, meditation lowered the blood pressure of African Americans, a population at high risk for hypertension.


  • Transcendental Meditation was used by Zamara in 1997 among 21 patients with coronary artery disease. After eight months, there was an improvement in circulation and improved exercise tolerance.


  • At the Harvard Medical School, Dr. Margaret Caudill enrolled 109 chronic pain patients in a ten-session course of psychotherapy and relaxation techniques, and noted a 36 percent reduction in their use of clinics during the first year.


  • One very significant study was reported by Dr. Joseph Blumenthal and his colleagues at the Duke University School of Medicine in 1997. Using a stress management group plus muscle tension biofeedback with heart disease patients, the results were more effective than the usual care exercise group. Based on this stress management program, there were three fewer fatal heart attacks, three fewer bypass surgeries, and one less angioplasty. This savings of $70,000, or $2,100 per patient, resulted in an estimated return on investment of 7:1. Bear in mind that these cost savings were attained through the improvement of health, not the denial of care.


Although yoga will be considered in a later chapter, it is often included among the meditation and relaxation therapies. In the November 1998 special issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, one study reported that an eight-week yoga program was more effective than splints in treating carpal tunnel syndrome, according to a report from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.




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