Guided Imagery and Meditation Blog | Health Journeys

You are here: Home Hot Research Guided Imagery Reduces Non-Cancer Pain, but How Remains a Mystery

enews signup

Email

Guided Imagery Reduces Non-Cancer Pain, but How Remains a Mystery

21 Jan

Researchers from the College of Nursing, Kent State University conducted a pilot study to determine the effect of a guided imagery (GI) intervention over an 8-week period on pain and pain disability in a sample of patients with chronic, non-cancer pain (CNCP);  and to then analyze the mediating effects of neuroendocrine and neuroimmune functioning on outcome variables.

A simple interrupted time-series design (12-week period) was used. Guided imagery  was introduced at Week 4 and used daily by 25 participants for the remaining 8 weeks.

Measures of pain and pain disability were obtained at the beginning of the study period and at six repeated 2-week intervals.

Measures of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activation (plasma, cortisol), immune-mediated analgesia (lymphocyte subset counts and proliferation), and immune-mediated hyperalgesia (interleukin-1β) were obtained at the beginning of the study and at Week 11.

Findings showed that usual pain levels were lower after the introduction of GI at Week 4 (Wilks' λ = 52.31; df = 2, 22; p = .000).

Pain disability levels were lower after the introduction of GI at Week 4 (Wilks' λ = 5.98; df = 6, 18; p = .001).

The investigators concluded that guided imagery was effective in reducing pain intensity and pain disability over an 8-week period.

Surprisingly, however, the findings did not show the expected effects of decreased HPA axis activation, improved immune-mediated analgesia, nor reduced immune-mediated hyperalgesia in driving these outcomes.

They suggest that these results may be related to procedural and theoretical issues and/or limitations related to the study design.

[Ed. Note:  How about these findings may be related to the fact that pain is a matter of perception in the brain, and guided imagery shifts perception?]

Citation: Lewandowski W, Jacobson A, Palmieri PA, Alexander T, Zeller R. Biological Mechanisms Related to the Effectiveness of Guided Imagery for Chronic Pain. Biological Research in Nursing. 2010  Nov 26. [Epub ahead of print]

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award