Relaxation techniques for acute pain management: a systematic review

J Adv Nurs. 1998 Mar;27(3):466-75. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.1998.00538.x.


This review aims to document the effectiveness of relaxation techniques, when used alone for the management of acute pain, after surgery and during procedures. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) was undertaken. Seven studies involving 362 patients were eligible for this review. One hundred and fifty patients received active relaxation as the sole intervention. Reports were sought by searching MEDLINE, psycLIT, CINAHL, and the Oxford Pain Relief Database. The outcome measures used were pain and psychological factors. A meta-analysis was not possible, due to lack of primary data. Three of the seven studies demonstrated significantly less pain sensation and or pain distress in those who had relaxation. Four studies did not detect any difference. There was some weak evidence to support the use of relaxation in acute pain. However, this was not conclusive and many of both the positive and the negative studies suffered from methodological inadequacies. Well designed and executed randomized controlled trials are needed before the clinical use of relaxation in acute pain management can be firmly underpinned by good quality research evidence. Until this evidence is available we recommend that the clinical use of relaxation in acute pain settings is carefully evaluated and not used as the main treatment for the management of acute pain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Humans
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Postoperative / nursing*
  • Pain, Postoperative / prevention & control*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Relaxation Therapy*