Non-pharmacological interventions feasible in the nursing scope of practice for pain relief in palliative care patients: a systematic review

Suzan van Veen (First author), Hans Drenth, Johannes Hobbelen, Evelyn Finnema, Saskia Teunissen, Everlien de Graaf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Palliative care patients desire more symptom management interventions that are complementary to their medical treatment. Within the multi-professional team, nurses could help support pain management with non-pharmacological interventions feasible for their practice and adaptable to palliative care patients’ needs.
Objectives: The objective was to identify non-pharmacological interventions feasible in the nursing scope of practice affecting pain in palliative care patients.
Design: A systematic review.
Data sources and methods: A defined search strategy was used in PubMed, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and Embase. Search results were screened double-blinded. Methodological quality was double-appraised with the Joanna Briggs Institute Critical Appraisal Tools. Data were extracted from selected studies and the findings were summarized. The methodological quality, quantity of studies evaluating the same intervention, and consistency in the findings were synthesized in a best-evidence synthesis to rank evidence as strong, moderate, limited, mixed, or insufficient.
Results: Out of 2385 articles, 22 studies highlighted non-pharmacological interventions in the nursing scope of practice. Interventions using massage therapy and virtual reality demonstrated most evidentiary support for pain management, while art therapy lacked sufficient evidence. Mindful breathing intervention showed no significant reduction in pain. Hypnosis, progressive muscle-relaxation-interactive-guided imagery, cognitive-behavioral audiotapes, wrapped warm footbath, reflexology, and music therapy exhibited promising results in pain reduction, whereas mindfulness-based stress reduction program, aromatherapy, and aroma-massage therapy did not.
Conclusion: Despite not all studies reaching significant changes in pain scores, non-pharmacological interventions can be clinically relevant to palliative care patients. Its use should be discussed for its potential value and nurses to be trained for safe practice. Methodologically rigorous research for non-pharmacological interventions in nursing scope of practice for pain relief in palliative care patients is necessary.
Translated title of the contributionNiet-farmacologische interventies haalbaar in de verpleegkundige praktijk voor pijnverlichting bij patiënten in de palliatieve zorg: een systematische review
Original languageEnglish
JournalPalliative Care and Social Practice
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2024


  • complementary therapies
  • palliative care nursing
  • hospice care
  • pain management
  • palliative care
  • symptom management


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