4.3, a point lower than children in the control group. While the difference was not statistically significant, Schmidt believes it is “clinically” significant.
“If it works for you, and it reduced your pain by one point or two points, isn’t it worth it?” she asks.
Bresler notes that his academy trains a lot of pediatricians to use guided imagery techniques. But kids aren’t the only patients benefiting from this mind-body therapy. Sports psychologists use it to enhance athletes’ physical performance. And cancer centers often use it to relieve patients’ pain and nausea.
Carol L. Baird, an associate professor of nursing at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., recently tested guided imagery with a relaxation component among older women suffering from osteoarthritis.
Half of the 28 volunteers in the pilot study listened to recordings that described a pleasant scene and guided listeners to engage all of their senses. After 12 weeks, the experimental group experienced a significant reduction in pain compared with women in the control group. The guided imagery group also had increased mobility, the study shows.
What’s more, a separate study involving the same volunteers found that guided imagery with relaxation seemed to improve their quality of life, she shares.
Baird thinks the guided imagery approach has exciting potential. “For one thing, it’s so easy to use,” she notes. It’s also inexpensive and easy to teach, making it suitable for patients to use in their own self-care.
Of course, it may not be for everyone, especially people who have difficulty visualizing images in their heads, Baird acknowledged. In the future, she plans to do studies that measure people’s “imaging ability.”
On the other hand, guided imagery experts say the technique has minimal side effects, if any. So why not try it?
Schmidt suspects science someday will reveal a concrete biological reason why guided imagery works. In fact, animal studies suggest that images in the brain can stimulate neurotransmitters that, in turn, block pain receptors. But for patients garnering relief today, a neurochemical explanation may not be necessary.