The Effects of Relaxation Before or After Skin Damage on Skin Barrier Recovery: A Preliminary Study

Psychosom Med. 2015 Oct;77(8):844-52. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000222.


Objectives: Psychological interventions administered before wounding can reduce stress and improve healing. However, in many cases, it would be more practical for interventions to be delivered after wounding. This preliminary study investigated whether a brief relaxation intervention could improve healing when administered either before or after skin damage produced by tape stripping in comparison to a control group.

Methods: One hundred twenty-one healthy adults were randomized into one of three groups: (a) relaxation prestripping group, (b) relaxation poststripping group, or (c) no relaxation. Participants completed measures of stress, fatigue, relaxation, and pain. Relaxation consisted of listening to 20 minutes of guided relaxation, whereas the control condition was quiet reading for 20 minutes. Skin barrier function was measured using transepidermal water loss at baseline, immediately after tape stripping and 25 minutes later.

Results: Relaxation either before or after tape stripping improved skin barrier recovery compared with the control group (F(2,92) = 3.58, p = .032, partial η = 0.074). Participants who took part in the relaxation intervention were significantly more relaxed and reported greater reductions in pain than the control group did 25 minutes after tape stripping. Perceived stress over the last month was not significantly related to healing.

Conclusions: This study showed that a relaxation intervention had a beneficial effect on skin barrier recovery regardless of whether the intervention was administered before or after wounding. Future research needs to replicate these findings in other wound types and in clinical settings, and investigate the biological mechanisms involved.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Epidermis / injuries*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recovery of Function / physiology*
  • Relaxation Therapy / methods*
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wounds and Injuries / therapy*
  • Young Adult