A meta-analysis of hypnotically induced analgesia: How effective is hypnosis at pain relief?

Hypnosis has been used as a psychological technique for treatment of a broad range of disorders and illnesses. For example, it has been used in treating phobias, depression, anorexia nervosa, dissociative identity disorder, psychotic disorders, posttraumatic stress disorders, obesity, smoking, and somatization disorders.

Even given the breadth of treatment contexts, hypnosis is perhaps best known as a pain relief technique. Indeed, this popularity may be due to longstanding reports of pain relief with hypnosis during aversive medical procedures (e.g., Esdaile, 1957). Hypnosis has been demonstrated to relieve pain in patients with headache (Spinhoven, Linssen, Van Dyck, & Zitman, 1992; ter Kuile et al., 1994; Van Dyck, Zitman, Linssen, & Spinhoven, 1991), burn injury (Patterson, Everett, Burns, & Marvin, 1992; Patterson & Ptacek, 1997; Wakeman & Kaplan, 1978), disease (Weinstein & Au, 1991), arthritis (Haanen et al., 1991; Horton & Mitzdorf, 1994), cancer (Katz, Kellerman,&Ellenberg, 1987; D. Spiegel & Bloom, 1983; Syrjala, Cummings, & Donaldson, 1992; Wall & Womack, 1989), dental problems (Stam, McGrath,&Brooke, 1984), eczema (Hajek, Radil, & Jakoubek, 1991), and chronic back problems (Melzack & Perry, 1975; Spinhoven & Linssen, 1989).

The purpose of this study is: (a) to determine the percentage of people who benefit from hypnoanalgesic suggestions, (b) to explore whether results based on empirical work in the laboratory generalize to medical settings and whether the effects of hypnosis are limited to a particular segment of the population (e.g., highly suggestible individuals), and (c) to explore whether the effects of hypnoanalgesic suggestions are less effective, equally effective, or more effective than other psychological interventions (e.g., relaxation training) in providing pain relief.

pain relief with onco hypnosis41 effect sizes were initially calculated from 18 papers. Effect sizes were based on the pain reports of 933 participants, nearly all of who were randomly assigned to control or hypnotic intervention conditions. For 75% of the population, hypnosis provided substantial pain relief. As those results were obtained across several studies, they do not factor in the differences in therapist skills, nor the difference in technique used.

A meta-analysis of hypnotically induced analgesia: How Effective is Hypnosis?
International Journal Of Clinical & Experimental Hypnosis, 2000 Apr;48(2):138-53.
Montgomery GH, DuHamel KN, Redd WH.

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