Research on pain

Below are hypnosis research abstracts related to pain, including chronic pain.

Some of the abstracts come from, which is on the website of the NIH (National Institutes of Health). If you’re a research fan, it’s a great site with advanced search options. If you have any questions about how hypnosis helps people with pain, feel free to contact me.

A Meta-Analysis of Hypnosis for Chronic Pain Problems: A Comparison Between Hypnosis, Standard Care, and Other Psychological Interventions.
Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2014 January-March;62(1):1-28.
Adachi T, Fujino H, Nakae A, Mashimo T, Sasaki1 J.
Osaka University , Japan.

Hypnosis is regarded as an effective treatment for psychological and physical ailments. However, its efficacy as a strategy for managing chronic pain has not been assessed through meta-analytical methods. The objective of the current study was to conduct a meta-analysis to assess the efficacy of hypnosis for managing chronic pain.

When compared with standard care, hypnosis provided moderate treatment benefit. Hypnosis also showed a moderate superior effect as compared to other psychological interventions for a nonheadache group.

The results suggest that hypnosis is efficacious for managing chronic pain. Given that large heterogeneity among the included studies was identified, the nature of hypnosis treatment is further discussed.

The effects of a medical hypnotherapy on clothing industry employees suffering from chronic pain.
J Occup Med Toxicol. 2013 Sep 25;8(1):25. doi: 10.1186/1745-6673-8-25.
Roja Z, Kalkis V, Roja I, Kalkis H.
Ergonomics Research Centre, University of Latvia, Riga, Latvia.


Problems associated with pain in several body regions due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMDs), repetitive movement and negative stress at work are quite common in many manufacturing industries of Latvia, clothing industry.

The aim of this study was to evaluate efficiency of the psychotherapeutic intervention using medical hypnotherapy (MH) program for mind-body relaxation with pain-blocking imagery, cognitive restructuring of unpleasant physical and emotional experience.

300 sewers and 50 cutters with chronic pain were involved in the study. Self-rated WRMDs symptoms, pain intensity and interference were assessed using the extended version of Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaire and Brief Pain Inventory Scale.

Assessment of the functional state of muscles was carried out using myotonometric (MYO) measurements. Work heaviness degree was estimated via heart rate monitoring (HRM).

The MH program was composed of cognitive hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis training. Sunnen Trance Scale was used to determine person’s hypnotic susceptibility. Life quality assessment before and after MH program was carried out using Quality of Life Scale.

At the beginning of MH program sessions both sewers and cutters reported on pain interference with general activities, mood, sleep, normal work, etc., but after MH the interference of pain significantly decreased.

HRM data confirmed that work heaviness degree of sewers and cutters can be referred to as light and moderate work (energy expenditure for their tasks varies from 3.4 till 4.7 kcal/min). Using MYO measurements it was stated that before MH 22% of workers involved in the study fell under III MYO category indices, consequently, their muscle tone was increased, which is associated with muscular fatigue.

After MH muscle tone remained within the normal range meaning that they were able to adapt to the existing workload (II MYO category) or fully relax (I MYO category).

MH program including exercises-workouts, cognitive hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis training sessions is an effective method to decrease composite chronic pain intensity for sewers and cutters, as well as to decrease psychogenic tension and muscle fatigue (proved by objective measurements of muscles tone) and to increase the life quality.

Hypnosis as sole anaesthesia for skin tumor removal in a patient with multiple chemical sensitivity.
Anaesthesia. 2013 Sep;68(9):961-5. doi: 10.1111/anae.12251. Epub 2013 Jul 12.
Facco E, Pasquali S, Zanette G, Casiglia E.
Department of Neurosciences University of Padua, and the Italian Center for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Turin, Italy.

A female patient with multiple chemical sensitivity and previous anaphylactoid reactions to local anaesthetics was admitted for removal of a thigh skin tumour under hypnosis as sole anaesthesia. The hypnotic protocol included hypnotic focused analgesia and a pre-operative pain threshold test.

After inducing hypnosis, a wide excision was performed, preserving the deep fascia, and the tumour was removed; the patient’s heart rate and blood pressure did not increase during the procedure. When the patient was de-hypnotised, she reported no pain and was discharged immediately.

Our case confirms the efficacy of hypnosis and demonstrates that it may be valuable as a sole anaesthetic method in selected cases. Hypnosis can prevent pain perception and surgical stress as a whole, comparing well with anaesthetic drugs.

Hypnosis as a treatment of chronic widespread pain in general practice: a randomized controlled pilot trial.
BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2008 Sep 18;9:124. doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-9-124.
Grøndahl JR, Rosvold EO.
Institute of General Practice and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway.


Hypnosis treatment in general practice is a rather new concept. This pilot study was performed to evaluate the effect of a standardized hypnosis treatment used in general practice for patients with chronic widespread pain (CWP).

The study was designed as a randomized control group-controlled study. Sixteen patients were randomized into a treatment group or a control group, each constituting eight patients. Seven patients in the treatment group completed the schedule.

After the control period, five of the patients in the control group also received treatment, making a total of 12 patients having completed the treatment sessions. The intervention group went through a standardized hypnosis treatment with ten consecutive therapeutic sessions once a week, each lasting for about 30 minutes, focusing on ego-strengthening, relaxation, releasing muscular tension and increasing self-efficacy.

A questionnaire was developed in order to calibrate the symptoms before and after the 10 weeks period, and the results were interpolated into a scale from 0 to 100, increasing numbers representing increasing suffering. Data were analyzed by means of T-tests.

The treatment group improved from their symptoms, (change from 62.5 to 55.4), while the control group deteriorated, (change from 37.2 to 45.1), (p = 0,045). The 12 patients who completed the treatment showed a mean improvement from 51.5 to 41.6. (p = 0,046). One year later the corresponding result was 41.3, indicating a persisting improvement.

The study indicates that hypnosis treatment may have a positive effect on pain and quality of life for patients with chronic muscular pain. Considering the limited number of patients, more studies should be conducted to confirm the results.

A Comparison of Self-Hypnosis Versus Progressive Muscle Relaxation in Patients With Multiple Sclerosis and Chronic Pain
Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2009 April; 57(2): 198–221. doi: 10.1080/00207140802665476
Mark P. Jensen, Joseph Barber, Joan M. Romano, Ivan R. Molton, Katherine A. Raichle, Travis L. Osborne, Joyce M. Engel, Brenda L. Stoelb, George H. Kraft, and David R. Patterson

Twenty-two patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and chronic pain we recruited into a quasi-experimental trial comparing the effects of self-hypnosis training (HYP) with progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) on pain intensity and pain interference; 8 received HYP and the remaining 14 participants were randomly assigned to receive either HYP or PMR. HYP-condition participants reported significantly greater pre- to postsession as well as pre- to posttreatment decreases in pain and pain interference than PMR-condition participants, and gains were maintained at 3-month follow-up.

Most of the participants in both conditions reported that they continued to use the skills they learned in treatment and experienced pain relief when they did so. General hypnotizability was not significantly related to treatment outcome, but treatment-outcome expectancy assessed before and after the first session was. The results support the efficacy of self-hypnosis training for the management of chronic pain in persons with MS.

Multicomponent cognitive-behavioral group therapy with hypnosis for the treatment of fibromyalgia: long-term outcome.
J Pain. 2012 Mar;13(3):255-65. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2011.11.005. Epub 2012 Jan 29.
Castel A, Cascón R, Padrol A, Sala J, Rull M.
Pain Clinic, Hospital Universitari de Tarragona Joan XXIII, Tarragona, Spain.

This study compared the efficacy of 2 psychological treatments for fibromyalgia with each other and with standard care. Ninety-three patients with fibromyalgia (FM) were randomly assigned to 1 of the 3 experimental conditions: 1) multicomponent cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT); 2) multicomponent CBT with hypnosis; and 3) pharmacological treatment (standard care control group).

The outcome measures of pain intensity, catastrophizing, psychological distress, functionality, and sleep disturbances were assessed before treatment, immediately after treatment, and at 3- and 6-month follow-up visits. CBT and CBT with hypnosis participants received the standard pharmacological management plus 14 weekly, 120-minute-long sessions of psychological treatment.

All but 1 session followed a group format; the remaining session was individual. The analyses indicated that: 1) patients with FM who received multicomponent CBT alone or multicomponent CBT with hypnosis showed greater improvements than patients who received only standard care; and 2) adding hypnosis enhanced the effectiveness of multicomponent CBT. This study presents new evidence about the efficacy of multicomponent CBT for FM and about the additional effects of hypnosis as a complement to CBT. The relevance and implications of the obtained results are discussed.

This article highlights the beneficial effects of adding hypnosis in a multicomponent cognitive-behavioral group treatment of fibromyalgia patients. Also, this research showed that by adding hypnosis the length of treatment did not increase.

Experimental pain ratings and reactivity of cortisol and soluble tumor necrosis factor-α receptor II following a trial of hypnosis: results of a randomized controlled pilot study.
Pain Med. 2012 Jan;13(1):29-44. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4637.2011.01293.x.
Goodin BR, Quinn NB, Kronfli T, King CD, Page GG, Haythornthwaite JA, Edwards RR, Stapleton LM, McGuire L.
University of Florida, Comprehensive Center for Pain Research, Gainesville, FL 32610, USA.


Current evidence supports the efficacy of hypnosis for reducing the pain associated with experimental stimulation and various acute and chronic conditions; however, the mechanisms explaining how hypnosis exerts its effects remain less clear. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and pro-inflammatory cytokines represent potential targets for investigation given their purported roles in the perpetuation of painful conditions; yet, no clinical trials have thus far examined the influence of hypnosis on these mechanisms.

Healthy participants, highly susceptible to the effects of hypnosis, were randomized to either a hypnosis intervention or a no-intervention control. Using a cold pressor task, assessments of pain intensity and pain unpleasantness were collected prior to the intervention (Pre) and following the intervention (Post) along with pain-provoked changes in salivary cortisol and the soluble tumor necrosis factor-α receptor II (sTNFαRII).

Compared with the no-intervention control, data analyses revealed that hypnosis significantly reduced pain intensity and pain unpleasantness. Hypnosis was not significantly associated with suppression of cortisol or sTNFαRII reactivity to acute pain from Pre to Post; however, the effect sizes for these associations were medium-sized.

Overall, the findings from this randomized controlled pilot study support the importance of a future large-scale study on the effects of hypnosis for modulating pain-related changes of the HPA axis and pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Hypnosis for functional abdominal pain.
Am J Clin Hypn. 2011 Jul;54(1):56-69.
Gottsegen D.
Department of Pediatrics, Baystate Medical Center Tufts University, Springfield, Massachusetts, USA.

Chronic abdominal pain is a common pediatric condition affecting 20% of the pediatric population worldwide. Most children with this disorder are found to have no specific organic etiology and are given the diagnosis of functional abdominal pain.

Well-designed clinical trials have found hypnotherapy and guided imagery to be the most efficacious treatments for this condition. Hypnotic techniques used for other somatic symptoms are easily adaptable for use with functional abdominal pain. The author discusses 2 contrasting hypnotic approaches to functional abdominal pain and provides implications for further research. These approaches may provide new insights into this common and complex disorder.

The efficacy of hypnosis as an intervention for labor and delivery pain: a comprehensive methodological review.
Clin Psychol Rev. 2011 Aug;31(6):1022-31. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2011.06.002. Epub 2011 Jun 23.
Landolt AS, Milling LS.
University of Hartford, West Hartford, CT, USA.

This paper presents a comprehensive methodological review of research on the efficacy of hypnosis for reducing labor and delivery pain. To be included, studies were required to use a between-subjects or mixed model design in which hypnosis was compared with a control condition or alternative intervention in reducing labor pain.

An exhaustive search of the PsycINFO and PubMed databases produced 13 studies satisfying these criteria. Hetero-hypnosis and self-hypnosis were consistently shown to be more effective than standard medical care, supportive counseling, and childbirth education classes in reducing pain.

Other benefits included better infant Apgar scores and shorter Stage 1 labor. Common methodological limitations of the literature include a failure to use random assignment, to specify the demographic characteristics of samples, and to use a treatment manual.

Chronic daily headache: helping adolescents help themselves with self-hypnosis.
Am J Clin Hypn. 2011 Jul;54(1):32-46.
Kohen DP.
Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55414, USA.

Although the evidence is clear that hypnosis has been an effective treatment for recurrent headaches in children, review of the literature revealed no previous reports of hypnosis for youth with the condition of chronic daily headache. Two adolescents with continuing chronic daily headaches were taught self-hypnosis through careful attention to individual strengths and finding the hypnotic elements within the clinical encounters.

Self-reports of intensity, frequency, and duration of headaches described substantial benefit from learning and practicing self-hypnosis after little to no benefit from pharmacologic and other nonpharmacologic therapies. These results and analogous success with several other adolescents with chronic daily headache support the further use of self-hypnosis training for this condition.

As a self-regulation technique that is quickly and easily learned by most young people, self-hypnosis training holds considerable promise for effectively treating and perhaps preventing chronic daily headaches in children and adolescents.