Background: Previous findings are unclear regarding the possible glycemic benefits of applying behavioral relaxation training in non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM).
Methods: Subjects with NIDDM were randomized to relaxation training (6 sessions of progressive muscle relaxation and imagery, n = 12) or control treatment (routine medical care, n = 10). Physiological measures were total glycosylated hemoglobin (GHb) and area under the 2-hour oral-glucose-tolerance curve (AUC). Psychological measures of generalized distress, anxiety and daily stress were also administered. All subjects were assessed before and after the 8-week intervention, and again at 16 weeks of long-term follow-up.
Results: There were no postintervention group differences in physiological variables. Highly distressed subjects and those who rated their glucose as more stress responsive tended to practice relaxation less between sessions. Within the treated group only, lower preintervention stress responsivity was associated with greater improvement in GHb, and lower anxiety and distress levels predicted long-term improvement in AUC.
Conclusions: It remains unclear whether relaxation training produces glycemic benefits in NIDDM. Perhaps the least anxious and stress-responsive patients only benefit from group-based relaxation training, whereas anxious individuals require intensive individually administered interventions.