Date of Award

Spring 1983

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Fehring, Richard J.

Second Advisor

McLane, Audrey

Third Advisor

Theis, Charlotte


The present study is a partial replication of the Flaherty and Fitzpatrick study (1978). The effect of a relaxation technique on the comfort level of surgical patients in their first attempt at getting out of bed was tested on forty patients ages twenty-one to sixtyfive who were admitted for elective abdominal surgery. The relaxation technique that was implemented consisted of dropping the jaw, keeping the tongue quiet, and breathing slowly and rhythmically. The design was a simple two-group pre-test and post-test experimental design using random assignment. Experimental group subjects received instructions in the use of a relaxation exercise prior to surgery. The control group was not taught the relaxation exercise. Both groups were taught how to get out of bed. Comfort levels of subjects on the first attempt at getting out of bed post-surgery were measured from the scores obtained on 1) the McGillMelzack Pain Questionnaire, 2) the Johnson Pain and Distress Scale, and 3) the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. Analysis of covariance using the F ratio statistic was used to test significant differences between groups at the OS level of significance. Pain perception threshold scores were used as the covariant in this investigation. The study results demonstrated that no significant differences in comfort levels existed between the experimental and control groups. The results of the study did not concur with those of Flaherty and Fitzpatrick. Factors contributing to differences in results between the studies may be due to the lack of precise instruments to measure pain, inadequate time to learn and practice the relaxation technique, prior use of a relaxation technique, and/or the administration of differing amounts and types of pain medications. The use of relaxation techniques to relieve acute pain in surgery has been inconclusive. Further research needs to replicate studies using larger sample sizes, control for the use of pain medications, and control for previous knowledge of and skill in the use of a relaxation technique.



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