Home | Disorders and Conditions | VCU Study Finds Guided Imagery Helps Manage Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

VCU Study Finds Guided Imagery Helps Manage Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing researchers have discovered that guided imagery significantly decreases stress, fatigue, pain and depression in women with fibromyalgia.

The study abstract, “Effects of Guided Imagery on Biobehavioral Factors in Women with Fibromyalgia,” published online in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, also found significant improvement in self-efficacy, the belief that one can cope regardless of the challenge.  Individuals with a high level of self-efficacy seemed better able to manage symptoms that accompany a chronic illness.

The findings could help the estimated 5 million to10 million Americans who suffer from the chronic disorder that causes muscle pain and fatigue.  Sufferers have "tender points" that hurt when pressure is placed on them and symptoms often include anxiety or depression.

“The guided imagery intervention is low-cost, simple to use and easily accessible,” said principal investigator and lead author Victoria Menzies, R.N., Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Adult Health and Nursing Systems.  “This study provides support for the use of guided imagery as an adjunctive approach to clinical management of the challenging symptoms of fibromyalgia.”

More than 70 women participated in the 10-week trial. Participants listened to a series of CD tracks that guided them in focusing on pleasant scenes and provided instruction related to experiencing an enhanced sense of well-being.  

The intervention did not result in significant immunologic changes related to pro- or anti-inflammatory biomarkers, substances found in blood, other body fluids or tissues that signal whether an inflammatory condition is present.

Menzies recommends that future studies should further explore biobehavioral aspects of symptom management in individuals suffering from chronic illness.

Menzies collaborated with VCU School of Nursing colleagues Debra E. Lyon, Ph.D., chair of the  Department of Family and Community Health Nursing and co-director of the Biobehavioral Sciences Core of the Center for Biobehavioral Clinical Research; R.K. Elswick, Jr., Ph.D., professor, director of the Data Services and Analysis Core of the Center for Biobehavioral Clinical Research; Nancy L. McCain, D.S.N., Nursing Alumni Distinguished Professor and co-director of the Biobehavioral Sciences Core of the Center for Biobehavioral Clinical Research; D. Patricia Gray, Ph.D., associate professor and chair, Department of Adult Health and Nursing Systems.

The full study will be published in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Behavioral Medicine. It was funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research, part of the National Institutes of Health.

About VCU and the VCU Medical Center

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 222 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-six of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University compose the VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see www.vcu.edu.

Cheryle Rodriguez
VCU Office of Public Affairs
(804) 827-0889

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