Relaxation & pain management: The relaxation response can play a role in managing chronic and acute pain

Document Type



Analgesics, the mainstay in the management of acute and chronic moderate-to-severe pain, don’t always relieve it or the attendant restlessness, irritability, muscle tension, difficulty concentrating, and sleep disturbance. Behavioral approaches, including relaxation, have demonstrated efficacy in treating many conditions, including chronic pain and insomnia, 1 headache, 2 postoperative pain, 3 and others, but nurses continue to underuse these adjunctive strategies. 1 According to McCaffery and Pasero, nonpharmacologic methods of pain management can diminish the emotional components of pain, strengthen coping abilities, give patients a sense of control, contribute to pain relief, decrease fatigue, and promote sleep. 4

Acute pain triggers a stress response in the sympathetic nervous system, which results in increases in muscle tension, heart and respiratory rates, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and blood coagulation. 5 The adrenal cortex supports this stress response with glucocorticoids that enhance the “fight or flight” response but also suppress the immune system and heighten susceptibility to illness, infection, and other complications. 6 Unrelieved pain heightens the response to subsequent pain episodes; anticipation of it causes the same stress response that actual pain stimulus does. Emotions associated with the stress response include anxiety, fear, anger, and hopelessness.


Pain – Treatment; Relaxation – Technique


Alternative and Complementary Medicine | Anesthesia and Analgesia | Mental and Social Health | Nursing | Other Analytical, Diagnostic and Therapeutic Techniques and Equipment | Therapeutics

UNLV article access

Search your library