Guided Imagery Improves Pain, Fatigue, Nausea, Vomiting and Depression in Chemo Patients

It’s been a long time since a research team studied the impact of guided imagery on the symptoms and side effects suffered by chemotherapy patients – there were quite a few clinical trials in the 70s and 80s, but it’s been hard to find recent studies until now. 

Researchers from Cyprus, Finland and Greece tested the effectiveness of Guided Imagery (GI) and Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) on a cluster of symptoms experienced by 208 chemotherapy patients - pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and retching, anxiety and depression.

The researchers from Cyprus University of Technology, The University of Turku in Finland and the University of Athens conducted a randomized controlled trial (RCT) with patients assigned randomly to either the guided imagery/relaxation group or a control group.

Measurements in both groups were collected at the start and at the end of the intervention (after four weeks). Patients were assessed for pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and retching, anxiety and depression. The overall impact was also assessed, based on the patients' self-reported health related quality of life (HRQol).

Patients in the intervention group experienced lower levels of Fatigue (p<0.0.0225), and Pain (p = 0.0003) compared to those in the control group, and reported better Quality of Life (p<0.0001).

Nausea, vomiting and retching occurred significantly less often in the intervention group, too, as compared to the control group. More patients in the control group were also found to be moderately depressed, as compared to those in the intervention group.

The investigators conclude that the combination of GI and PMR can be effective in the management of a cluster of symptoms in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. These techniques can complement existing management measures to achieve a comprehensive management of this symptom cluster and increase patients’ quality of life.

Citation: Charalambous A1,2, Giannakopoulou M3, Bozas E3, Marcou Y4, Kitsios P4, Paikousis L5. Guided Imagery And Progressive Muscle Relaxation as a Cluster of Symptoms Management Intervention in Patients Receiving Chemotherapy: A Randomized Control Trial. PLoS One. 2016 Jun 24;11 (6):e0156911. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0156911. eCollection 2016.

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