This systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted with the aim of assessing the efficacy of relaxation techniques for pain relief in patients undergoing abdominal surgery. The electronic search of the PubMed, Scopus, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) and Google Scholar databases was performed for studies in the English language published up to May, 2019. A total of 12 studies were included in the review and 7 in the meta-analysis. In total, 4 relaxation techniques were utilized in the included studies: Jaw relaxation, Benson's relaxation, progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) and systematic relaxation. Of the 12 included, 10 studies demonstrated statistically significant pain relief in the relaxation group as compared to the controls. The data of 422 patients in the relaxation group and 424 patients in the control group were pooled for a meta-analysis, which indicated that patients undergoing abdominal surgery had significantly greater pain relief following relaxation therapy as compared to the controls [random: standardized mean difference (SMD), -1.15; 95% CI, -2.04 to -0.26; P<0.00001). The overall quality of the studies was not high. On the whole, despite trials demonstrating the benefits of relaxation therapy for immediate pain relief in patients post-abdominal surgery, there is lack of high-quality scientific evidence substantiating its routine use. There is a need for more robust randomized control trials (RCTs) utilizing standardized relaxation protocols to provide further evidence on this subject.
Keywords: nursing care; pain; relaxation techniques; surgery.