Hypnosis for Surgery

Several Studies in recent years have shown, hypnosis to be a valuable adjunct to surgery and other hospital procedures


In one study, Montgomery and colleagues tested the effectiveness of a 15-minute pre-surgery hypnosis session versus an empathic listening session in a clinical trial with 200 breast cancer patients. In a 2007 article in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (Vol. 99, No. 17), the team reported that patients who received hypnosis reported less post-surgical pain, nausea, fatigue and discomfort. The study also found that the hospital saved $772 per patient in the hypnosis group, mainly due to reduced surgical time. Patients who were hypnotized required less of the analgesic lidocaine and the sedative propofol during surgery.

In a 2009 article in Health Psychology (Vol. 28, No. 3), Montgomery and colleagues reported on another study, which found that a combination of hypnosis and cognitive-behavioral therapy could reduce fatigue for breast cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy. Pre-treatment hypnotherapy has been shown to be beneficial in association with many medical procedures.

Research has also shown the benefits of hypnosis for burn victims. In a 2007 report in Rehabilitation Psychology (Vol. 52, No. 3), Shelley Wiechman Askay, PhD, David R. Patterson, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Washington Medical School found that hypnosis before wound debridements significantly reduced pain reported by patients on one pain rating questionnaire.

There is steadily increasing evidence that hypnotherapy can be a valuable adjunct to a wide range of medical and surgical procedures.

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Literature Review of the Evidence-base for the Effectiveness of Hypnotherapy for Chronic Pain and Anxiety

This very interesting and useful paper by Eileen Davis* reviews ten studies on the effectiveness of Hypnotherapy.

Here is a summary of her findings:
The goal of this literature review is to provide a contemporary review of research on the effectiveness of hypnotherapy. Ten studies have been reviewed on the application of hypnotherapy to two common conditions: chronic pain and anxiety. The review found that the studies provided evidence for the effectiveness of hypnotherapy as a treatment to assist in the reduction of pain and anxiety.

A stronger evidence base for hypnotherapy has developed over the past decade, and the review provides some key recommendations for future research in this area .
You can read the entire paper here.

* Davis, E., (2015), Literature review of the evidence-base for the effectiveness of hypnotherapy. Melbourne: PACFA.



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Hypnosis for Pain Management

Pain that persists for longer than 6 months is referred to as chronic pain (Keefe, 1982). Unrelieved chronic pain can cause considerable suffering, physical limitations, and emotional distress493x335_low_back_pain_overview_slideshow (Turk, 1996). Further, chronic pain is one of the most common reasons for seeking medical care but often persists despite treatment with analgesics and physical modalities. For example, epidemiologic studies indicate that approximately 11% to 45% of individuals in the United States experience chronic back pain (LeResche & Von Korff, 1999), 75% of patients with advanced cancer suffer persistent pain (Bonica, 1990), and chronic pain is the most common reason for the use of complementary and alternative therapies (Astin, 1998; Eisenberg et al., 1993).

Interest in hypnosis for pain management has increased with recent evidence that hypnosis can reduce pain (and costs) associated with medical procedures (Lang et al., 2000), and there are now an adequate number of controlled studies of hypnosis to draw meaningful conclusions from the literature regarding chronic pain (Jensen & Patterson, 2006; Montgomery, DuHamel, & Redd, 2000; Patterson & Jensen, 2003).

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 or that the patient can quickly and easily create a state of comfort using a cue (i.e., taking a deep breath and exhaling as eye lids close). The focus of hypnosis in the treatment of chronic pain also often involves teaching the patient self-hypnosis or providing tape recordings of hypnosis sessions that can be used to reduce pain on a daily basis outside the sessions. Some patients experience an immediate reduction in pain severity following hypnosis treatment, whereas others can obtain reduction in pain with repeated practice of self-hypnosis or hypnosis sessions.

A recent study compared the effectiveness of hypnosis and Jacobson relaxation for the reduction of osteoarthritis pain. Thirty-six patients with osteoarthritis pain were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: hypnosis, relaxation training, and a no-treatment/standard-care control condition. The hypnosis intervention consisted of eight weekly sessions that began with a standard relaxation induction followed by suggestions for positive imagery, as well as a memory from childhood that involved joint mobility. The subjects in the standard-care control condition were administered the outcome measures and were offered treatment after their last follow-up assessment. Patients in the hypnosis treatment showed a substantial and significant decrease in pain intensity after 4 weeks of treatment, which was maintained through 3 months and 6 months of follow-up. In comparison, patients in the no-treatment control condition reported little change in pain during the 6 months of this trial.

In addition to being of proven benefit in the management, control and reduction of chronic pain, Hypnotherapy has the added benefit of being entirely free of any side effects.


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Hypnosis with Breast Surgery

Breast cancer surgery is associated with side effects, including postsurgical pain, nausea, and fatigue.

In this study, a randomized clinical trial involving 200 patients undergoing breast surgery  tested the hypotheses that a brief presurgery hypnosis intervention would decrease intraoperative anesthesia and analgesic use and side effects associated with breast cancer surgery and that it would be cost effective.

The study concluded that, “Hypnosis was superior to attention control regarding propofol and lidocaine use; pain, nausea, fatigue, discomfort, and emotional upset at discharge; and institutional cost. Overall, the present data support the use of hypnosis with breast cancer surgery patients.”

You can read the complete study here.

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Hypnosis Works for Pain Control

The US Institute for the Study of Healthcare Organizations & Transactions has a study on the effectiveness of Hypnosis in Pain Management.

As you can see from their graph, Hypnosis achieved a higher level of pain reduction than Acupuncture, Morphine or the Placebo. Hypnosis not only helps to relieve pain but it helps to preserve the dignity and well-being of patients without the dependence on large amounts of prescription medications .

Remember, ALL medications have side effects and people develop a tolerance eventually leading to increased dosages and possible addiction.

The US National Institutes of Health recommends using hypnosis as a tool in pain management! 26 million Americans have frequent or persistent back pain and 50 million Americans are partially or fully disabled from some form of chronic pain?How about the fact that 1 out of every 6 Americans have a form of painful arthritis.

The evidence suggests that, per capita, the  situation is much the same in Australia.

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Treating Stomach Pains with Hypnosis

stomach painIn January 2013 Science Nordic published this article describing research into the effectiveness of Hypnotherapy in treating IBS:

It’s the world’s most common gastrointestinal disease, with symptoms ranging from abdominal pain and discomfort to disturbed bowel movements and abdominal bloating.

Yet relatively little is known about irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or how to treat it effectively.

In Sweden, where around one in ten suffer from IBS, research has found that hypnosis might be an effective method to alleviate symptoms.

High patient satisfaction

“We have four different studies showing that hypnotherapy helps treat IBS, even when the treatment is not provided by highly specialized hypnotherapy centers,” says Perjohan Lindfors, PhD student at the University of Gothenburg.

“The treatment improves gastrointestinal symptoms and quality of life, and patient satisfaction is very high.”

The studies form part of Lindfors’ doctoral thesis Implementation of gut-directed hypnotherapy for irritable bowel syndrome in clinical practice, which recommends introducing hypnotherapy into the treatment of severe IBS sufferers.

“The method makes efficient use of health care resources,” says Lindfors, who is also a senior gastroenterologist at Sabbatsberg Hospital.

Using the unconscious mind

The hypnotherapy treatment teaches patients how to control their symptoms, either by diverting their attention away from them or by focusing on them, through a state of deep relaxation where they receive individually customized hypnotic suggestions.

Over a series of sessions patients are taught to direct the unconscious mind’s ability to regulate bodily functions.

The therapy includes practices such as resting a hand on the abdomen and imagining a ‘surge of control’ from the mind, and creating and ‘projecting’ an image of a normally functioning gut.

Proven to be effective

In previous studies hypnotherapy has been shown to improve not only IBS symptoms, but also symptoms outside the intestinal system, as well as quality of life and ‘psychological co-morbidity’ – the knock-on effect from IBS on other psychological conditions.

“Psychological treatment in different contexts, psychodynamic short-term therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and gut-directed hypnotherapy, have proven to be effective in treating IBS, both in the short- and long-term perspective,” states Lindfors’ thesis.

Treatment limited to specialist centres

But so far, this treatment has been largely limited to specialist hypnotherapy research centres.

“In spite of these impressive results, the treatment modality has not been widely spread as a part of IBS care in clinical practice,” writes Lindfors.

In his research he carried out randomized controlled trials on a group of 90 IBS patients in Gothenburg, as well as another trial on 48 IBS patients in Gävle, and further analysis on both of these trials plus a clinical sample from Ersta Hospital in Stockholm.

The findings show that hypnotherapy is an effective treatment – even when delivered outside research centres specialising in hypnotherapy.

“At least as effective as drugs”

“The effect size is generally lower than those reported from specialized hypnotherapy centres, but at least as effective as some of the drugs currently under development for the treatment of IBS,” Lindfors points out.

On the basis of the findings he recommends the introduction of gut-directed hypnotherapy as a part of clinical care when treating IBS patients, specifically when there are difficulties in using symptom-modifying drugs or changing lifestyle behaviour.

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Hypnosis for Pain Management

Within the realm of medicine, the method of hypnoanalgesia can be adapted for various situations. In most cases, the intervention consists of four main stages (Chaves, 1994). The first stage involves preparation of the patient. As can be expected, most patients come into hypnosis with various expectations. In order to obtain the maximum gain, the therapist works to direct the patient toward the most realistic goals. The second stage involves the hypnotic induction.

As studies have not shown that differences exist between indirect and direct suggestions, most therapists make use of a mixture of the two. In this stage, the therapist needs to help the patient enter into a focused and relaxed state. The third stage involves therapeutic suggestions. This is the most important stage in which the therapist focuses the attention of the patient. In the context of pain reduction, the therapist helps the patient develop
imaginary situations (regardless of feasibility) which will achieve the goal of less pain.

BackPain_zpsbb50a1b7An example is dissociation, in which the patient imagines the hand separate from the body or made of a different material. The fourth stage involves posthypnotic suggestions and termination. The posthypnotic suggestions allow the patient to retain achievements (i.e. pain reduction abilities) outside of the hypnotic state (e.g. with a tap on the shoulder).

The most researched form of acute (short-term) pain in the context of hypnosis is that associated with burn patients. The use of hypnosis is important at the outset as well as throughout the healing process.

For burn patients, the use of hypnotic induction as close as possible to the time of injury is essential as it helps to limit the amount of inflammatory reaction to the injury. Furthermore, the minds of the patients are focused upon entry into the emergency room which makes hypnosis easy to induce.

According to earlier studies, signs of inflammation are affected by the attitude of the patient toward the injury (Chapman et al., 1959). Therefore, the perception of heat at the burn site leads to increased inflammation and the perception of coolness leads to decreased inflammation.

Applied before the initiation of the natural response, hypnotic suggestions of cooling and anesthesia limit and prevent inflammation. Burn patients who accept the suggestions that the wounded area is ³cool² and ³comfortable² are easier to treat, more optimistic, and heal faster (Ewin, 1978).

As burn patients go through the healing process, the pain of caring for the wound is reported to be more severe than the pain of sustaining the wound. In order to prevent infection, patients must undergo daily debridement, which involves scraping necrotic tissue off the wound and applying antiseptic. The procedure causes excruciating pain. Since the frequency of wound care prohibits regular use of general anesthesia, the use of hypnoanalgesia is highly applicable (Patterson et al., 1996).

In a study done by Patterson et al. (1992), 30 burn patients undergoing debridement were randomly assigned to three groups: hypnosis, attention/pseudohypnosis (placebo), and no intervention (control).

The hypnosis condition included suggestions for relaxation, analgesia, amnesia, and comfort when touched on the shoulder. The placebo condition involved pseudohypnosis (closing your eyes, counting to 20, imagining yourself in a relaxing place), the touch on the shoulder, and instructions to distinguish between sensations of healing and signals of harm. The control condition provided no other procedures to alleviate pain.

The results showed that only the group which underwent true hypnosis reported a significant reduction in pain. The true hypnosis group reported a 46% decrease in pain from the baseline, the placebo group reported a 16% decrease, and the control group reported a 14% decrease.

Even though the placebo group believed that they underwent hypnosis, those assigned to that group did not report much less pain than those assigned to the control group. Therefore, the results discount the
effects of expectancy and reveal that pain reduction due to hypnoanalgesia goes beyond relaxation.

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Using Hypnosis for Spinal Cord Injury Pain Management

spinal cord injury

Click on picture to watch video

Presented on September 11, 2007, by Shelley Wiechman, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Washington. Dr. Wiechman discusses what hypnosis is, how it is used to treat pain, and what the research on hypnosis for treating pain shows so far.

She reviews virtual reality and its use in improving hypnosis treatment and shows a video clip of a burn patient using virtual reality for pain management. Finally, Dr. Wiechman provides a demonstration of hypnosis induction and talks about how to find a therapist trained in hypnosis for chronic pain management.





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Hypnosis for Pain Management

pain-mapHypnosis can be used for all patients for pain relief including, in some instances, as a form of analgesia for surgery, a Perth conference of anaesthetists and pain specialists was told in 2012.

New Zealand psychiatrist and pain medicine specialist, Dr Bob Large, from the Auckland Regional Pain Service said about 10 to 15 per cent of the population is highly hypnotisable and could potentially undergo surgery, such as gallbladder or thyroid removal, without anaesthetic.

However, Dr Large told an Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists conference in Perth, the rest of the population can still benefit from hypnosis to control their pain levels through suggestions made by a specialist that can change a patient’s expectations of pain. This has been shown to be effective in child birth and for dealing with cancer and chronic pain and pain following medical procedures.

Hypnosis is now well established as a highly effective, side effect free form of pain management.

Hypnosis is particularly beneficial for children dealing with chronic pain, as they usually take to hypnosis easily and quickly become skilled at self hypnosis.

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Hypnotherapy and Ill and Injured Workers

In an article in the IAIABC Journal Michael Ellner and Robert Aurbach report:

“Hypnosis is an excellent intervention tool for the treatment of injured and ill  workers with respect to learned helplessness, disability behavior and many of the physical and emotional symptoms experienced by injured workers. Assistance with stress and coping with external stressors, chronic pain, insomnia, depression and fostering a positive mental attitude are all well documented applications of hypnosis.

A self-hypnosis training regimen offered by properly trained and certified hypnosis professionals offers an opportunity for a brief and measurable intervention, resulting in a likelihood of positive impact on the injured or ill worker, with none of the risks traditionally associated with psychological intervention in workers’ compensation cases.”

You can read the complete article here

* IAIABC Journal Fall 2009, Vol 46, No 2

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