Burish, Snyder and Jenkins, the highly regarded Vanderbilt University team known for its many studies of imagery and chemotherapy, assessed the effectiveness of biofeedback and relaxation training in reducing the aversive side effects of cancer chemotherapy on 81 patients.
The 81 patients were randomly assigned to one of 6 groups (two kinds of biofeedback, no biofeedback, with or without relaxation -- that is, electromyographic biofeedback, skin temperature biofeedback, and no biofeedback groups, combined with either relaxation therapy and no relaxation therapy).
Outcomes were assessed with physiological, patient-reported and nurse-reported measures, taken over 5 consecutive chemo treatments.
The investigators found that relaxation therapy patients showed decreases in nausea and anxiety during chemo, and decreases in physiological arousal measures after. On the other hand, the 2 biofeedback interventions yielded some reduction in physiological indices, but no other effects.
The study concludes that relaxation therapy is effective in reducing adverse consequences of chemotherapy; and that past data on the effectiveness of biofeedback was probably due to its having been combined with relaxation therapy, and not to the biofeedback alone.