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Imagery Reduces Pelvic Pain, Interstitial Cystitis Symptoms

05 Jul

Researchers from William Beaumont Hospital’s Department of Urology in Royal Oak, Michigan, conducted a pilot study to see if guided imagery might have an effect on the symptoms of interstitial cystitis, a condition involving urinary urgency, frequency, and pelvic pain, which affects more than a million women in the U.S.

Thirty women with diagnosed IC were randomized into 2 equal groups. The treatment group listened to a 25-minute guided imagery compact disc, created specifically for women with pelvic pain and IC, twice a day for 8 weeks. The control arm rested for 25 minutes twice daily for 8 weeks.

Because no guided imagery CDs specifically for women with IC were found on the commercial market, the authors created a script and recorded the CD specifically for women with IC and pelvic pain. The focus of this guided imagery CD was on healing the bladder, relaxing the pelvic-floor muscles, and quieting the nerves specifically involved in IC.

Baseline and end-of-study assessment questionnaires (Interstitial Cystitis Symptom Index & Problem Index [IC-SIPI], IC Self-Efficacy Scale, a visual analogue [VAS] scale for pain, and a global response assessment [GRA]), 2-day voiding diaries, and 24-hour pain diaries were completed by the subjects and were evaluated.

The study found that more than 45% of the treatment group were responders to guided imagery therapy, noting a moderate or marked improvement on the GRA. Pain scores and episodes of urgency significantly decreased in the treatment group. Responders had significant reductions in symptom/problem index scores  (problem index, p = 0.006; symptom index, p = 0.004).

In addition, responders on the GRA had significant (p = 0.039) improvements in mean pain scores from 5.50 to 2.57 at the end of the study, in contrast to the nonresponders, whose pain levels remained the same (4.89 to 4.39).

The researchers conclude that these preliminary data support the use of guided imagery as a potential therapy for IC pain and symptom management.  They underline that this is an intervention without negative side-effects and is readily available.

Citation:  Carrico DJ, Peters KM, Diokno AC. Guided Imagery for Women with Interstitial Cystitis: Results of a Prospective, Randomized Controlled Pilot Study. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine. Vol 14:1. 2008. pp. 53-60. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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