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The use of guided imagery to manage pain in an elderly orthopaedic population.

13 Dec

Two fabulous research nurses, right down the street, from Case Western Reserve’s graduate school of nursing, completed a pilot study showing that imagery helps with pain control for elderly patients who have undergone joint replacement..

In this pilot study, two nurses from The Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University explored the efficacy of guided imagery for the management of postoperative pain in elderly orthopaedic patients who underwent joint replacement. Pain control is of course critical, so that physical therapy can proceed in a timely way, and risk of complications can be kept to a minimum. At the same time, there is concern about adverse side effects of pain meds, such as confusion and sedation. This makes the use of guided imagery particularly attractive as an intervention to control pain for this population.

This pilot study used a two-group experimental repeated measures design. A sample of 13 patients, age 55 years and older, were recruited. The control group received usual care and a music audio tape. The experimental group received usual care and a guided imagery audio tape intervention.

Trends in this pilot study demonstrated positive outcomes for pain relief, decreased anxiety, and decreased length of stay. Further research is needed to validate these findings with a larger postoperative sample and in other populations as well.

The researchers summarize that there is a critical need to incorporate the use of guided imagery and other complementary therapies into all nursing curricula. They conclude that nurses must develop expertise and be ready and able to act as patient educators and advocates in the use of these interventions.

Citation: Antall GF, Kresevic D. The use of guided imagery to manage pain in an elderly orthopaedic population. Orthop Nurs. 2004 Sep-Oct;23(5):335-40.
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