Functional relaxation as complementary therapy in irritable bowel syndrome: a randomized, controlled clinical trial

J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Jan;16(1):47-52. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0084.


Objectives: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a frequently disabling and almost invariably distressing disease with a high overall prevalence. Numerous trials identified the importance of psychogenic and emotional etiological factors, and this is obvious in clinical practice. Although relaxation techniques are frequently recommended, there is still a lack of evidence for their efficacy in the management of IBS. This study therefore aims to determine the efficacy of functional relaxation (FR) in IBS.

Subjects: The subjects were 80 patients with IBS.

Interventions: Participants were randomly allocated either to FR or to enhanced medical care (EMC: treatment as usual plus two counseling interviews) as control intervention with 2 weekly sessions over the 5-week trial each. Thirty-nine (39) patients completed FR and 39 received EMC.

Outcome measures: An impairment-severity score (IS) was employed as the primary outcome parameter with assessment at baseline, after treatment, and again after 3-month follow-up.

Results: FR was significantly superior to EMC with a standardized effect size of 0.85. The achieved effects through FR remained stable in terms of psychic and bodily impairment after 3-month follow-up.

Conclusions: The results of our trial suggest a positive effect of FR training on subjective functional impairment in the IS, if provided in addition to treatment as usual (TAU). There appears to be a clinically relevant long-term benefit of FR as a nonpharmacological and complementary therapy approach in IBS.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / classification
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Relaxation Therapy*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Treatment Outcome