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Hypnosis and Pain Management

A review of controlled prospective trials utilizing hypnosis for the treatment of chronic pain was conducted at the Scott & White Clinic and Hospital. The findings indicated that hypnosis interventions consistently produce significant decreases in pain associated with a variety of chronic-pain problems. Also, hypnosis was generally found to be more effective than nonhypnotic interventions such as attention, physical therapy, and education. A pilot study conducted at the University of Oslo, Norway, indicated that hypnosis treatment had a positive effect on pain and quality of life for patients with chronic muscular pain. A review of research conducted at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, found that children can be easier to hypnotize than adults and that clinical hypnosis and self-hypnosis can be effective as adjunct treatments for children in pain. Examples include painful medical procedures, such as bone marrow aspiration and lumbar puncture in pediatric cancer patients, postoperative pain and anxiety in children undergoing surgery, and chronic headache. The neural mechanisms underlying the modulation of pain perception by hypnosis remain obscure. However, a study conducted at the University Hospital of Liege, in Liege, Belgium, using positron emission tomography indicated that hypnosis decreased both pain sensation and the unpleasantness of noxious stimuli. In addition, it was found that hypnotic modulation of pain is mediated by the anterior cingulate cortex of the brain which plays a role in a wide variety of autonomic functions, such as regulating blood pressure and heart rate, as well as rational cognitive functions, such as reward anticipation, decision-making, empathy and emotion.

  • Grøndahl, J. R. & Rosvold, E. O. Hypnosis as a treatment of chronic widespread pain in general practice: a randomized controlled pilot trial. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2008; 9:124-29. Institute of General Practice and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway.
  • Rogovik, A. L. & Goldman, R.D. Hypnosis for treatment of pain in children. Can Fam Physician. 2007; 53(5):823-5. Pediatric Research in Emergency Therapeutics program, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ont.
  • Elkins, G., Jensen, M. P., & Patterson, D. R. Hypnotherapy for the management of chronic pain. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2007; 55(3):275-87. Texas A & M University College of Medicine, Scott and White Clinic and Hospital, Temple, Texas, USA.
  • Jensen, M. P. The neurophysiology of pain perception and hypnotic analgesia: Implications for clinical practice. Am J Clin Hypnosis. 2008; 51(2): 123-148. University of Washington.
  • Faymonville, M. E., Laureys, S., Degueldre, C., et al. Neural mechanisms of antinociceptive effects of hypnosis. Anesthesiology. 2000; 92(5):1257-67. Departments of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine and Neurology, and the Cyclotron Research Centre, University Hospital of Liège, Liège, Belgium.

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