Guided Imagery for Arthritis and Other Rheumatic Diseases: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials

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Background—Many individuals suffering from arthritis and other rheumatic diseases (AORD) supplement pharmacological treatments with psychosocial interventions. One promising approach, guided imagery, , has shown positive results in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and is a highly scalable treatment for those with AORD. Objectives—The main purpose of this study was to conduct a systematic review of RCTs that have examined the effects of guided imagery on pain, function, and other outcomes such as anxiety, depression, and quality of life in adults with AORD. Data Sources—Ten electronic bibliographic databases were searched for reports of RCTs published between 1964 and 2013. Selection criteria included adult participants with AORD who participated in RCTs that used guided imagery as a partial or sole intervention strategy. Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias Assessment Instrument. Results were synthesized qualitatively. Results—Seven studies representing 306 enrolled and 287 participants who completed the interventions met inclusion criteria. The average age of the participants was 62.9 years (SD=12.2). All interventions utilized guided imagery scripts that were delivered via audio technology. The interventions ranged from a 1-time exposure to 16 weeks in duration. Risk of bias was low or unclear in all but one study. All studies, except one, reported statistically significant improvements in the observed outcomes. Conclusions—guided imagery appears to be beneficial for adults with AORD. Future theorybased studies with cost benefit analyses are warranted.