Hypnosis and Headache Pain: The Research
In a study conducted by Anderson (1975), migraine patients treated with hypnosis had a significant reduction in the number of attacks and in their severity compared to a control group who were treated with traditional medications. The difference did not become statistically significant until the second six-month follow-up period. In addition, at the end of one year, the number of patients in the hypnosis group who had experienced no headaches for over three months was significantly higher.
In a controlled trial conducted by Olness (1987), self-hypnosis was shown to be significantly more effective than either propranolol or placebo in reducing the frequency of migraine headaches in children between the ages of six and twelve years of age.
In a research conducted by Schlutter (1980), hypnosis was also found to be effective in dealing with the relief of tension headache.
Alladin (1988) reviewed the literature on hypnosis, identifying fully a dozen different hypnotic techniques that have been used in the treatment of chronic migraine headaches. Of these, hypnotic training emphasizing relaxation, hand warming (which, according to Anderson, 1975) seems the simplest method of establishing increased voluntary control of the sensitive vasomotor system) and direct hypnotic suggestions of symptom removal have all been shown to be effective in reducing the duration, intensity and frequency of migraine attacks during a ten-week treatment course and at thirteen-month follow-up when compared to controls.
A study (Gutfeld, G. and Rao, L., 1992) was conducted on 42 patients suffering from chronic headaches. These patients, all of whom had responded poorly to conventional treatments, were split into two groups. One received hypnotherapy to relieve their daily headaches; the rest acted as a comparison group. The hypnotherapy group experienced reduced frequency and duration of headaches, cutting the intensity by about 30%. "These results are impressive in such a difficult, hard-to-treat group of patients," commented Egilius Spierings, M.D., Ph.D. director of the headache section, division of neurology at Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Alladin, A. (1988). "Hypnosis in the Treatment of Severe Chronic Migraine. In M. Heap (ed.), Hypnosis: Current clinical, Experimental and Forensic Practices. London: Croom Helm. pp. 159-166.
Anderson, J.A., Basker, M.A. & Dalton, R. (1975). "Migraine and Hypnotherapy." International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 23, 48-58.
Gutfeld, G. and Rao, L. (1992). "Use of Hypnosis with Patients Suffering from Chronic Headaches, Seriously Resistant to Other Treatment," As reported in Prevention, 44, 24-25.
Olness, K., MacDonald, J.T. & Uden, D.L. (1987). "Comparison of Self-Hypnosis and Propranolol in the Treatment of Juvenile Classic Migraine." Pediatrics, 79, 593- 597.
Schlutter, L.C., Golden, C.J. & Blume, H.G. (1980). "A Comparison of Treatments for Prefrontal Muscle Contraction Headache." British Journal of Medical Psychology, 53, 47-52.