Autogenic training (AT) is frequently used as therapeutic approach in multimodal pain therapy. The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis is to investigate the efficacy of AT in individuals suffering from chronic pain in comparison to passive and active control groups.
A comprehensive literature search in Medline, Web of Science, PsycInfo, and PubPsych and manual searches (last search April 7, 2021) were conducted to locate randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Treatment guidelines and references of relevant articles and previous reviews were checked. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Full Text database, DART-Europe E-theses Portal, Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (NDLTD), and the Theses Database of the German National Library were screened to identify any unpublished material.
A total of 13 eligible studies (k = 15 comparisons) including 576 participants were identified. Random-effects meta-analyses revealed a significantly positive, moderate effect of AT on the primary outcome pain compared to passive control groups (g = 0.58, 95% CI [0.36; 0.79], k = 9, I2 = 0%). In comparison with other psychological interventions, no difference was found (g = − 0.05, 95% CI [− 0.30; 0.20], k = 6, I2 = 0%). Sensitivity analyses proved the robustness of findings. Overall risk-of-bias judgment was ‘some concerns’ in the majority of studies.
Beneficial effects of AT on pain reduction were demonstrated, but findings are prone to bias. Furthermore, high methodological quality RCTs are needed to strengthen the promising evidence of AT for individuals with chronic pain.