Relaxation Therapy with Guided Imagery for Postoperative Pain Management: An Integrative Review

Pain Manag Nurs. 2019 Feb;20(1):3-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pmn.2017.10.014. Epub 2017 Dec 15.


Objective: To identify the evidence in the literature about relaxation therapy with guided imagery for postoperative pain management.

Method: Integrative review.

Data source: PubMed, Lilacs, Cochrane, Embase, Web of Science, Scopus and Cinahl, between August 2006 and December 2016. Descriptors: Postoperative Pain, Imagery (Psychotherapy) and Guided Imagery.

Study selection: original studies published in English, Spanish and Portuguese. 291 studies were identified and eight were selected. Descriptive data analysis, presented in detail, with a summary of the knowledge produced in each study.

Results: In the primary studies included, the use of guided imagery associated with other complementary therapies was highlighted: hand and foot "M" technique, education on postoperative pain management with analgesic drugs, relaxation exercises, respiration exercises, meditation, soothing biorhythmic music combined with positive and encouraging assertions and music with nature sounds.

Conclusions: The knowledge synthesis resulting from this study indicates that evidence could be identified on the use of guided imagery associated with relaxation therapy as a complementary approach to drug analgesia in postoperative pain control strengthens its indication for nursing practice. This evidence, however, demonstrates that the quality of the use of this therapy is limited, and it is necessary to carry out new randomized clinical studies to fill the existing gaps in this topic.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Male
  • Pain Management / methods
  • Pain Management / standards*
  • Pain, Postoperative / therapy
  • Relaxation Therapy / methods
  • Relaxation Therapy / standards*