Relaxation therapy as a treatment for tics in patients with Tourette syndrome: a systematic literature review

Florence Tilling, Andrea E Cavanna

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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BACKGROUND: Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by the presence of multiple motor and phonic tics, often associated with co-morbid behavioural problems. Tics can be modulated by environmental factors and are characteristically exacerbated by psychological stress, among other factors. This observation has led to the development of specific behavioural treatment strategies, including relaxation therapy.

OBJECTIVE: This review aimed to assess the efficacy of relaxation therapy to control or reduce tic symptoms in patients with TS.

METHODS: We conducted a systematic literature review of original studies on the major scientific databases, including Medline, EMBASE, and PsycInfo, according to the standards outlined in the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. Outcomes measures included both tic severity and tic frequency.

RESULTS: Our literature search identified three controlled trials, with a total number of 40 participants (range: 6-18 participants). In all three studies, relaxation therapy decreased the severity and/or the frequency of tic symptoms. However, the only trial comparing relaxation therapy to two other behavioural techniques found relaxation therapy to be the least effective intervention, as it reduced the number of tics by 32% compared to 44% with self-monitoring and 55% with habit reversal.

DISCUSSION: The results of this systematic literature review provide initial evidence for the use of relaxation therapy as a behavioural treatment intervention for tics in patients with TS. Caution is needed in the interpretation of these findings, because the reviewed trials had small sample sizes and there was high heterogeneity across the study protocols.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNeurological Sciences
Early online date23 Dec 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Dec 2019


  • Behavioural therapy
  • Relaxation
  • Tics
  • Tourette syndrome


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