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STOP PAIN! Evidence for the Success of Hypnotherapy as a Treatmen

Pain that persists for longer than 6 months is referred to as chronic pain. Unrelieved chronic pain can cause considerable suffering, physical limitations, and emotional distress. Chronic pain is one of the most common reasons for seeking medical care but often persists despite treatment with analgesics and physical modalities.


- hypnosis interventions consistently produce significant decreases in pain associated with a variety of chronic problems.

- hypnosis was found to be more effective than nonhypnotic interventions such as attention, physical therapy, and education.

- hypnosis can reduce pain and costs associated with medical procedures

How does it work?

Hypnosis in the treatment of chronic pain generally, but not always, involves a hypnotic induction with suggestions for relaxation and comfort. Posthypnotic suggestions may be given for reduced pain that can continue beyond the session. Clients learn to use cues (i.e., taking a deep breath and exhaling as eye lids close) to quickly and easily create a state of comfort when the felt pain increases in intensity.

The use of hypnosis in the treatment of chronic pain also involves teaching the patient self-hypnosis or providing recordings of hypnosis sessions that can be used to reduce pain on a daily basis outside the sessions.

Medical Conditions & Experiental Studies

A meta-analysis (a study of studies) of 18 published studies by psychologists Guy Montgomery, PhD, Katherine DuHamel, PhD, and William Redd, PhD, showed that 75% of clinical and experimental participants with different types of pain obtained substantial pain relief from hypnotic techniques. Controlled trials of hypnosis in the treatment of chronic-pain problems showed improvement with the following medical problems:

  • cancer (Elkins, Cheung, Marcus, Palamara, & Rajab, 2004; Spiegel & Bloom, 1983)

  • low-back problems (McCauley, Thelen, Frank, Willard, & Callen, 1983; Spinhoven & Linssen, 1989)

  • arthritis (Gay, Philippot, & Luminet, 2002), sickle cell disease (Dinges et al., 1997)

  • temporomandibular conditions (Simon & Lewis, 2000; Winocur, Gavish, Emodi-Perlman, Halachmi, & Eli, 2002)

  • fibromyalgia (Haanen et al., 1991)

  • physical disability (Jensen et al., 2005)

  • mixed etiologies (Appel & Bleiberg, 2005–2006; Edelson & Fitzpatrick, 1989; Melzack & Perry, 1975)

For a detailed study of the effects of hypnosis in pain management, you can check the attached bibliography.

  1. Patterson, D.R. (2010) Clinical Hypnosis for Pain Control. Washington, DC.

  2. Lang, E. V., & Rosen, M. P. (2002). Cost analysis of adjunct hypnosis with sedation during outpatient interventional radiologic procedures. Radiology, 222, pp. 375-82.

  3. Lynn, S. J., Kirsch, I., Barabasz, A., Cardeña, E., & Patterson, D. (2000). Hypnosis as an empirically supported clinical intervention: The state of the evidence and a look to the future. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Vol. 48, pp. 235-255.

  4. Montgomery, G. H., DuHamel, K. N., & Redd, W. H. (2000). A meta-analysis of hypnotically induced analgesia: how effective is hypnosis? International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Vol. 48, pp. 138-153.

  5. Patterson, D. R., & Jensen, M. P. (2003). Hypnosis and clinical pain. Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 129, pp. 495-521.

  6. Rainville, P., Carrier, B., Hofbauer, R. K., Bushnell, M. C., & Duncan, G. H. (1999). Dissociation of sensory and affective dimensions of pain using hypnotic modulation. Pain, Vol. 82, pp. 159-71.

  7. Appel PR, Bleiberg J. Pain reduction is related to hypnotizability but not to relaxation or to reduction of suffering: A preliminary investigation. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. 2005–2006;48:153–161.

  8. Astin JA. Why patients use alternative medicine: Results of a national study. Journal of the American Medical Association. 1998;279:1548–1553.

  9. Bonica JJ. Evolution and current status of pain programs. Journal of Pain Symptom Management. 1990;5:368–374.

  10. Dinges DF, Whitehouse WG, Orne EC, Bloom PB, Carlin MM, Bauer NK, et al. Self-hypnosis training as an adjunctive treatment in the management of pain associated with sickle cell disease. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 1997;45:417–432.

  11. Edelson J, Fitzpatrick JL. A comparison of cognitive-behavioral and hypnotic treatments of chronic pain. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 1989;45:316–323.

  12. Eisenberg DM, Kessler RC, Foster C, Norlock FE, Calkins DR, Delbanco TL. Unconventional medicine in the United States. Prevalence, costs, and patterns of use. New England Journal of Medicine. 1993;328:246–252.

  13. Elkins GR, Cheung A, Marcus J, Palamara L, Rajab H. Hypnosis to reduce pain in cancer survivors with advanced disease: A prospective study. Journal of Cancer Integrative Medicine. 2004;2:167–172.

  14. Gay M, Philippot P, Luminet O. Differential effectiveness of psychological interventions for reducing osteoarthritis pain: A comparison of Erikson hypnosis and Jacobson relaxation. European Journal of Pain. 2002;6:1–16.