Complementary care such as massage therapy has been shown to address post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Meditation and stretching are two more tools that can be used to address PTSD, new research indicates.

More than 7 million adults nationwide are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a typical year, according to a press release from the Endocrine Society, which published the new research. “The mental health condition, triggered by a traumatic event, can cause flashbacks, anxiety and other symptoms.”

PTSD patients have high levels of corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) and unusually low levels of cortisol – two hormones used to regulate the body’s response to stress. Although levels of the stress hormone cortisol typically rise in response to pressure, PTSD patients have abnormally low levels of cortisol and benefit when these levels increase.

Meditation and stretching can normalize stress hormone levels, according to the study, which found cortisol levels responded favorably in subjects who participated in mind-body exercises for an eight week-period.

“Mind-body exercise offers a low-cost approach that could be used as a complement to traditional psychotherapy or drug treatments,” said the study’s lead author, Sang H. Kim, PhD, of the National Institutes of Health. “These self-directed practices give PTSD patients control over their own treatment and have few side effects.”

The research ran in The Endocrine Society‘s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.