Relaxation and imagery and cognitive-behavioral training reduce pain during cancer treatment: a controlled clinical trial

Pain. 1995 Nov;63(2):189-198. doi: 10.1016/0304-3959(95)00039-U.


Few controlled clinical trials of psychological interventions for cancer pain relief exist in spite of frequent support for their importance as adjuncts to medical treatment. This study compared oral mucositis pain levels in 4 groups of cancer patients receiving bone marrow transplants (BMT): (1) treatment as usual control, (2) therapist support, (3) relaxation and imagery training, and (4) training in a package of cognitive-behavioral coping skills which included relaxation and imagery. A total of 94 patients completed the study which involved two training sessions prior to treatment and twice a week 'booster' sessions during the first 5 weeks of treatment. Results confirmed our hypothesis that patients who received either relaxation and imagery alone or patients who received the package of cognitive-behavioral coping skills would report less pain than patients in the other 2 groups. The hypothesis that the cognitive-behavioral skills package would have an additive effect beyond relaxation and imagery alone was not confirmed. Average visual analogue scale (VAS) report of pain within the therapist support group was not significantly lower than the control group (P = 0.103) nor significantly higher than the training groups. Patient reports of relative helpfulness of the interventions for managing pain and nausea matched the results of VAS reports. From these results, we conclude that relaxation and imagery training reduces cancer treatment-related pain; adding cognitive-behavioral skills to the relaxation with imagery does not, on average, further improve pain relief.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Behavior Therapy*
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Mucosa
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / prevention & control*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Psychotherapy
  • Relaxation Therapy*
  • Stomatitis / physiopathology