The Effectiveness of Different Methods for the Control of Muscle Tension

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Master of Arts (MA)




Several methods of training in muscle control are utilized, singly or concurrently, to facilitate tension reduction in both student and clinical populations. Electromyographic methods involving audio and/or visual feedback, verbal instructions in tension- relaxation exercises, and autogenic suggestions are the three most common procedures employed to reduce muscle tension. However, several studies in this area (Paul, 1969 ; Cleaves, 1970; Haynes, 1974) have shown conflicting results regarding the effectiveness of the various methods of muscle control training. Psychologists, such as Green, Green, and Walters (1970) interested in utilizing biofeedback procedures have made clinical applications combining some form of verbal instruction and EMG or temperature feedback without a clear delineation of the effect of one procedure on another.

In the present study 24 female college students were assigned to four relaxation training conditions for five 20 minute training sessions. The four conditions were as follows: (1) A minimal treatment condition in which each subject was told simply to relax without further instructions; (2) An autogenic condition in which each subject was given autogenic relaxation instructions; (3) An EMG feedback condition in which each subject listened to a tone varying in pitch in proportion to her muscle tension, and (4) A combined condition in which autogenic and EMG feedback training were given concurrently. About a week after the completion of the five training sessions, a 20 minute follow-up session was used to test retention of muscle control training. Microvolt levels were recorded every minute from the frontalis of each subject during all sessions.

Analysis of the data indicated no significant differences between the treatment conditions in either training or retention sessions. However consistent patterns in the data indicated a trend for the treatment conditions receiving biofeedback to reach lower tension levels during training. The combined and minimal treatment conditions achieved the lowest tension levels during the follow-up session and the autogenic condition manifested a consistent trend to perform at a level inferior to the other three conditions over all experimental sessions.

Speculation about these results and an outline of a possible future study comparing verbal relaxation training and EMG bio feedback training were discussed.

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