Pain, fatigue and sleeplessness are side effects that commonly occur together in cancer patients. Researchers at the School of Nursing, University of Wisconsin-Madison, believed that treating the total symptom cluster would be more effective than targeting each condition individually. Additionally, the scientists were interested in mind-body approaches, because complementary therapies empower patients to engage in self-care and do not have the side effects of pharmaceuticals.
In a quest to identify a mind-body therapy that would benefit cancer patients coping with these three symptoms, investigators conducted a literature search for interventions that demonstrated effectiveness for two or more symptoms in the pain-fatigue-sleeplessness cluster. Forty-three studies addressing five types of mind-body interventions met the criteria. The research review was published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management (2009; doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman .2009.05.022).
No studies tested mind-body interventions for all three symptoms combined. Studies of relaxation techniques showed that relaxation exercises reduced pain and sleep disturbance. Imagery and hypnosis studies found that these interventions eased pain, fatigue and sleep disturbance individually, but no study offered findings for multiple symptom changes. Meditation aided patients in lessening fatigue and sleep disturbance, and listening to music reduced pain and fatigue.
Study authors recommended that future research should examine how any one mind-body intervention would affect individuals experiencing the combination of pain, fatigue and sleepless- ness. Authors also recommended using randomized controlled study designs to improve the quality of findings.