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J Pain Symptom Manage. 2012 Jul;44(1):95-104. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2011.07.014. Epub 2012 Jun 5.

Guided imagery for non-musculoskeletal pain: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials.

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Department of Complementary Medicine, University of Exeter, Peninsula Medical School, Exeter, Devon, United Kingdom.



Our previous review of the literature concluded that there is encouraging evidence that guided imagery alleviates musculoskeletal pain, but the value of guided imagery in the management of non-musculoskeletal pain remains uncertain.


The objective of this systematic review was to assess the effectiveness of guided imagery as a treatment option for non-musculoskeletal pain.


Six databases were searched from their inception to February 2011. Randomized clinical trials were considered if they investigated guided imagery in human patients with any type of non-musculoskeletal pain in any anatomical location and assessed pain as a primary outcome measure. Trials of motor imagery and hypnosis were excluded. The selection of studies, data extraction, and validation were performed independently by two reviewers.


Fifteen randomized clinical trials met the inclusion criteria. Their methodological quality was generally poor. Eleven trials found that guided imagery led to a significant reduction of non-musculoskeletal pain. Four studies found no change in non-musculoskeletal pain with guided imagery in comparison with progressive relaxation, standard care, or no treatment.


The evidence that guided imagery alleviates non-musculoskeletal pain is encouraging but remains inconclusive.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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