In one study, researchers at Harvard Medical School found that more than 30 percent of U.S. adults have used some form of mind-body medicine, a category that includes imagery, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Guided imagery is a visualization technique, which helps patients to focus on positive images to heal their bodies. Hypnotherapists guide patients and help them build detailed images in their minds. Patients are encouraged to picture their tumors shrinking in one local area or their whole body freeing itself of cancer. The Simonton method of guided imagery, developed by oncologist O. Carl Simonton and his wife, was designed to help patients undergoing standard treatments for cancer. This method teaches cancer patients to picture their immune system cells "gobbling up" cancer cells like "Pac Man," and destroying them.
Guided imagery is based on the idea that the mind can affect the functions of the body. Stimulating the brain through imagery can have a direct effect on both the endocrine and nervous systems, which lead to changes in immune system function. Guided imagery helps the mind influence the body in positive ways.
A review of 46 studies conducted from 1966 to 1998 by the American Cancer Society found that guided imagery was effective in managing stress, anxiety, depression, pain and the side effects of chemotherapy. A recent randomized clinical trial involving women with early stage breast cancer found guided imagery was also useful for easing anxiety related to radiation therapy, including fears about the equipment, surgical pain, and recurrence of cancer.
In a 2004 study in the journal Pain, researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center found that children who used guided-imagery tapes before and after routine surgery had significantly less pain and anxiety than a control group. More recently, researchers examined how children used these tapes, which suggested that they imagine going to a park, at least in their mind. Many, though, put their own spin on the image, such as a swimming pool, a lake or an amusement park.
Our imagination and its accompanying imagery is the language of the autonomic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that regulates involuntary body functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure and digestion. Therefore, when you're working with images, it is just as if you are giving a set of instructions to the system.
There was published the results of a 10-week guided imagery intervention study in the January 2006 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Invoolving a small group of patients with fibromyalgia, a condition involving chronic pain and fatigue. In the study, one group of patients received usual care and used a set of guided-imagery audiotapes. The other group received only usual care. Compared with the controls, the patients who participated in guided imagery were better able to perform activities of daily living and had a greater sense of being able to manage their pain and other symptoms.The pain did not change, but the ability to cope with the pain was improved.The advantage of using hypnosis and guided imagery is that we can also help to diminsh pain!