NONTRADITIONAL CHOICES: Putting imagery to work for your patient

June 2003 
Volume 33  Number 6
Pages 73 - 73
  PDF Version Available!


  • Following an imagery path

  • Few complications

  • Nursing considerations

  • Source

  • DEVELOPED FOR THERAPEUTIC purposes in the Middle Ages, imagery is used today in various settings to relieve pain and to enhance immune function. It's also used as an adjunctive therapy for several diseases, including diabetes mellitus.

    Many cancer patients use imagery to help mobilize their immune system, alleviate the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, relieve pain and stress, and promote weight gain. It's also used in many cardiac rehabilitation programs and in centers specializing in chronic pain.

    According to imagery advocates, people with strong imaginations—those who can literally “worry themselves sick”—are excellent candidates for using imagery to improve their health. Like other relaxation techniques, imagery has documented physiologic effects: It can lower blood pressure, decrease heart rate, and affect brain wave activity, oxygen supply to the tissues, vascular constriction, skin temperature, cochlear and pupillary reflexes, skin response, salivation, and gastrointestinal activity. Advocates believe that imagery enhances the effectiveness of conventional medical treatments by letting them work in less time and minimizing adverse reactions.

    Palming and guided imagery are two popular imaging techniques. In palming, the patient places his palms over his closed eyes and tries to fill his entire field of vision with only the color black. He then tries to picture the black changing to a color he associates with stress, such as red, then mentally replaces that color with one that he finds soothing, such as pale blue. In guided imagery, the patient visualizes a goal he wants to achieve, then pictures himself taking action to achieve it.

    Following an imagery path

    The patient can practice imagery alone or in a group led ...

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