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.
Patterson, D.R. (2010) Clinical Hypnosis for Pain Control. Washington, DC.
Lang, E. V., & Rosen, M. P. (2002). Cost analysis of adjunct hypnosis with sedation during outpatient interventional radiologic procedures. Radiology, 222, pp. 375-82.
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.
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.
Patterson, D. R., & Jensen, M. P. (2003). Hypnosis and clinical pain. Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 129, pp. 495-521.
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.
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.
Astin JA. Why patients use alternative medicine: Results of a national study. Journal of the American Medical Association. 1998;279:1548–1553.
Bonica JJ. Evolution and current status of pain programs. Journal of Pain Symptom Management. 1990;5:368–374.
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.
Edelson J, Fitzpatrick JL. A comparison of cognitive-behavioral and hypnotic treatments of chronic pain. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 1989;45:316–323.
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.
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.
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.
Haanen HC, Hoenderdos HT, van Romunde LK, Hop WC, Mallee C, Terwiel JP, et al. Controlled trial of hypnotherapy in the treatment of refractory fibromyalgia. Journal of Rheumatology. 1991;18:72–75.
Jensen MP, Barber J. Hypnotic analgesia of spinal cord injury pain. Australian Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 2000;28:150–168.
Jensen MP, Hanley MA, Engel JM, Romano JM, Barber JB, Cardenas DD, et al. Hypnotic analgesia for chronic pain in persons with disabilities: A case series. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 2005;53:198–228.
Jensen MP, McArthur KD, Barber JB, Hanley MA, Engel JM, Romano JM, et al. Satisfaction with, and the beneficial side effects of, hypnosis analgesia. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 2006;54:432–447.
Jensen MP, Patterson DR. Hypnotic treatment of chronic pain. Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 2006;29:95–124.
Keefe FJ. Behavioral assessment and treatment of chronic pain: Current status and future directions. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 1982;50:896–911.
Lang EV, Benotsch EG, Fick LJ, Lutgendorf S, Berbaum ML, Berbaum KS, et al. Adjunctive non-pharmacological analgesia for invasive medical procedures: A randomised trial. Lancet. 2000;355:1486–1490.
LeResche L, Von Korff M. Epidemiology of chronic pain. In: Block AR, Kemer EF, Fernandez E, editors. Handbook of pain syndromes: Biopsychosocial perspectives. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum; 1999. pp. 3–22.
McCauley JD, Thelen MH, Frank RG, Willard RR, Callen KE. Hypnosis compared to relaxation in the outpatient management of chronic low back pain. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 1983;64:548–552.
Melzack R, Perry C. Self-regulation of pain: The use of alpha-feedback and hypnotic training for the control of chronic pain. Experimental Neurology. 1975;46:452–469.
Montgomery GH, DuHamel KN, Redd WH. A meta-analysis of hypnotically induced analgesia: How effective is hypnosis? International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 2000;48:138–153.
Patterson DR, Jensen MP. Hypnosis and clinical pain. Psychological Bulletin. 2003;129:495–521.
Simon EP, Lewis DM. Medical hypnosis for temporomandibular disorders: Treatment efficacy and medical utilization outcome. Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology, and Endodontics. 2000;90:54–63.
Spiegel D, Bloom JR. Group therapy and hypnosis reduce metastatic breast carcinoma pain. Psychosomatic Medicine. 1983;45:333–339.
Spinhoven P, Linssen AC. Education and self-hypnosis in the management of low back pain: A component analysis. British Journal of Clinical Psychology. 1989;28:145–153.
Turk DC. Biopsychosocial perspective on chronic pain. In: Gatchel RJ, Turk DC, editors. Psychological approaches to pain management: A practitioner's handbook. New York: Guilford; 1996. pp. 3–32.
Winocur E, Gavish A, Emodi-Perlman A, Halachmi M, Eli I. Hypnorelaxation as treatment for myofascial pain disorder: A comparative study. Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology. 2002;93:425–434.