Guided imagery for musculoskeletal pain: a systematic review

Clin J Pain. 2011 Sep;27(7):648-53. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e31821124a5.


Aims: The objective of this systematic review was to assess the effectiveness of guided imagery (GI) as a treatment option for musculoskeletal pain (MSP).

Method: Six databases were searched from their inception to May 2010. All controlled clinical trials were considered, if they investigated GI in patients with any MSP in any anatomic location and if they assessed pain as an outcome measure. Trials of motor imagery were excluded. The selection of studies, data extraction, and validation were performed independently by 2 reviewers.

Results: Nine randomized clinical trials (RCTs) met the inclusion criteria. Their methodologic quality ranged between 1 and 3 on the Jadad scale. Eight RCTs suggested that GI leads to a significant reduction of MSP. One RCT indicated no change in MSP in comparison with usual care.

Conclusions: It is concluded that there are too few rigorous RCTs testing the effectiveness of GI in the management of MSP. Therefore, the evidence that GI alleviates MSP is encouraging but inconclusive.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy / standards*
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Treatment Outcome