is hypnosis effective?
8 mins read

is hypnosis effective?

Back pain that prevents you from returning to sport, osteoarthritis that prevents you from carrying your grandson, neuralgia that becomes obsessive… Chronic pain is extremely complex to relieve. Especially since doctors are increasingly warning about the side effects of certain medications and opioid dependence. According to a large British study published in May 2023, all antidepressants, except one, duloxetine, are ineffective against chronic pain. In recent years, many patients have turned to complementary medicines, notably hypnosis. A practice that can arouse fear or enthusiasm. Especially since the Order of Physicians is warning about abuses and asking for better supervision of alternative medicines, of which hypnosis is a part. Our time wanted to know about the effectiveness of medical hypnosis on chronic pain.

Read also > Hypnosis is not just a show!

What is medical hypnosis?

It is the use of hypnosis techniques for medical purposes (in particular pain management) and offered by health professionals. “What can scare patients is the link that some make with show hypnosis”, warns Julie Mayon, clinical psychologist and educational and scientific director of the French Institute of Hypnosis in Paris. But if the techniques of hypnosis performed on stage and medical hypnosis are similar, the purpose is completely different. “Some patients are afraid of being manipulated,” continues this hypnotherapist who has worked in pain management units and palliative care. But in spectacle hypnosis, there are selection biases, techniques very targeted on the spectacular… and very far from what we do in medical hypnosis.”

Is medical hypnosis effective for chronic pain?

“25 years ago, hypnosis still remained in the domain of belief, recognizes Julie Mayon. But neuroscience has been investigating for 20 years and has demonstrated the effectiveness of hypnosis.” Moreover, it was primarily for chronic pain that this therapy was studied. “I worked in the first pain center which offered hypnosis in 1984, at the Ambroise Paré hospital, recalls Jean-Marc Benhaiem. Today, 50% of the pain centers at the hospital have included hypnosis consultations.” Proof that it is not or no longer discredited by the scientific community.

Evidence of its effectiveness has been accumulated for certain specific pains:

– labor pain and delivery

– Fibromyalgia

– Temporomandibular disorders

– Multiple chronic pain (osteoarthritis)

– Minimally invasive procedures (blood test, painful examination, etc.)

– Musculoskeletal pain and/or neuropathic pain

“Since 2003, more than 200 clinical studies have been published throughout the field of pain and in France the National Council of the Order of Physicians recognizes the interest of hypnosis in the management of chronic pain , universities and university hospitals have been teaching and recognizing medical hypnosis for more than 15 years., assures Julie Mayon. “We know today that a patient who benefits from hypnosis preoperatively will develop less chronic pain and take fewer medications,” adds Jean-Marc Benhaiem. He cites a pilot trial carried out in Limoges on 15 women with an average age of 81 years, suffering from chronic pain for more than 6 months with an average pain score of 6.8/10. After 3 15-minute hypnosis sessions separated by 4 to 6 weeks, they noted an improvement in pain perception of -24% on the worst pain felt, of -26% on average pain, of -40% on current pain.

“The most recent meta-analyses highlight not only an improvement in pain scores, but also an improvement in comorbidities, particularly in terms of mood disorders, anxiety disorders and sleep,” continues the psychologist. However, some are more receptive than others. “Indeed, there are patients who do not want this approach,” admits Jean-Marc Benhaiem.

Is this lasting relief?

Not only will the person come out of the session with less pain, or even pain relief, but these effects will be felt in the long term. “In most cases, especially in the context of neuropathic pain, the pain returns during the day and this is normal, admits the psychologist. Working on several sessions, several techniques and with self-hypnosis will allow for the patient to have lasting effects over time.”

Recent studies have shown that we obtain a reduction in the intensity of pain with 3 and 8 sessions which goes from 100% to 2 to 56% 6 months after the sessions.

Hypnosis works on all the components of pain. Because when the pain lasts for months or years, there is a memory of the pain that sets in and can cause a real vicious circle. However, hypnosis works on physical pain, but also on its emotional side.

Can you do hypnosis alone?

Yes and this is a notable advantage compared to other therapies. During these sessions, the person will learn self-hypnosis. That is to say the means of recreating, alone, the conditions to enter a bubble of well-being, in this modified state of consciousness which allows the feeling of pain to be reduced. “We teach the person, whatever their age, small, simple methods that they can apply to obtain a lasting and significant effect,” she continues. Knowing how to relieve yourself, where and when you need it, is a way of restoring autonomy to the person.

What are the recommendations to avoid unpleasant mishaps?

Neither the practice of hypnosis nor the training is regulated in France. Beware of charlatans… Because some can improvise as hypnotherapists after a few hours of training.

  • The first instinct may be to contact a hospital pain center, which would offer this type of approach.
  • If you wish – or have not found a pain center near you – to follow sessions in town, check that the practitioner is indeed a health professional: doctor, midwife, nurse, dentist… “The hypnosis is not a profession, but rather a practice complementary to a profession of care”, insists Julie Mayon. Please note, however, that this therapy is not reimbursed. And that a session can cost between 50 and 200 euros. However, some mutual insurance companies now cover a quota of annual sessions upon billing by the professional health practitioner.
  • If you do not have a loved one or health professional who can recommend a trusted practitioner, please note that the French Institute of Hypnosis in Paris communicates the list of health professionals trained within it and their profession.
  • It may be interesting to contact certain professionals depending on your objective. “If you have dental pain, what’s better than a dentist to take care of this pain?, suggests Julie Mayon.

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