Hypnosis has been shown to alleviate symptoms and side effects of cancer and its treatment. However, less is known about the use of hypnosis at the end of life in individuals with cancer. Our goal was to systematically review the literature on the use of hypnosis to manage the most common symptoms of end-of-life cancer patients: fatigue, sleep disturbances, pain, appetite loss, and dyspnea. EMBASE, MEDLINE, COCHRANE, PsychINFO, and SCOPUS databases were searched from inception through November 7, 2016. No studies met the inclusion criteria. It appears that hypnosis has never been rigorously tested as a means to ameliorate the most common symptoms in individuals with cancer at the end of their lives. This finding is troubling, as it strongly implies that a population most in need has been largely neglected. However, a clear future research direction is revealed that may have significant clinical impact.
Hypnosis and meditation, as a whole, form a heterogeneous complex of psychosomatic techniques able to control mind and body regulation. Hypnosis has been pragmatically used for limited therapeutic targets, while eastern meditation has much wider philosophical and existential implications, aiming for a radical liberation from all illusions, attachments, suffering and pain. The available data on the history, phenomenology, and neuropsychology of hypnosis and meditation show several common features, such as: (a) induction based on focused attention; (b) capability to reach an intentional control of both vegetative-somatic activities and conscious-unconscious processes; (c) activation/deactivation of several brain areas and circuits (e.g., the default modality network and pain neuromatrix) with a relevant overlapping between the two.
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of a hypnotically based intervention for pain and fear in women undergoing labor who are about to receive an epidural catheter. A group of 155 women received interventions that included either (1) patient rocking, gentle touching, and hypnotic communication or (2) patient rocking, gentle touching, and standard communication. The authors found that the hypnotic communication intervention was more effective than the standard communication intervention for reducing both pain intensity and fear. The results support the use of hypnotic communication just before and during epidural placement for women who are in labor and also indicate that additional research to evaluate the benefits and mechanism of this treatment is warranted.
Pain is common in patients with multiple sclerosis. This study evaluated self-hypnosis for pain control in that population. A randomized clinical trial was conducted on 60 patients, who were assigned to either a control group or to a self-hypnosis group, in which patients performed self-hypnosis at least 10 times a day. All patients were trained to score the perceived pain twice daily on a numerical rating scale and also reported the quality of pain with the McGill Pain questionnaire. Repeated measures analysis showed a significant difference between the groups; pain was lower in the self-hypnosis group but was not maintained after 4 weeks. Self-hypnosis could effectively decrease the intensity and modify quality of pain in female patients with multiple sclerosis.
This prospective randomized clinical crossover trial was designed to compare self-hypnosis and local anesthesia for experimental dental pain relief. Pain thresholds of the dental pulp were determined. A targeted standardized pain stimulus was applied and rated on the Visual Analogue Scale (0-10). The pain threshold was lower under self-hypnosis (58.3 ±17.3)(p < .001), maximal (80.0) under local anesthesia. The pain stimulus was scored higher under self-hypnosis (3.9 ±3.8) than with local anesthesia (0.0)(p < .001). Local anesthesia was superior to self-hypnosis and is a safe and effective method for pain relief in dentistry. Self-hypnosis seems to produce similar effects observed under sedation. It can be used in addition to local anesthesia and in individual cases as an alternative for pain control in dentistry.
This study examined whether positive suggestions applied without a hypnotic induction in the perioperative period reduces the need for red blood cell transfusions in patients who underwent total hip or knee arthroplasties with spinal anesthesia. No hypnotic assessment was performed. Ninety-five patients were randomly assigned to the suggestion group (n = 45) and to the control group (n = 50). Patients in the suggestion group received verbal suggestions before and audiotaped suggestions during the surgery for reducing blood loss, anxiety, postoperative pain, and fast recovery. Our study showed that using positive suggestions in the perioperative period significantly decreases the necessity for transfusion.
Pain catastrophizing is associated with greater levels of pain. While many studies support the efficacy of hypnosis for pain, the effect on pain catastrophizing remains unclear. The present study evaluated the effect of hypnosis on pain catastrophizing using experimental heat stimulation. Twenty-two pain patients engaged in 3 conditions: baseline (no suggestion), hypnotic induction, and hypnotic induction plus analgesia suggestion. Participants with higher baseline pain showed a significant reduction in rumination following hypnotic induction plus analgesia suggestion and significant reductions in pain due to both the hypnotic induction alone and the hypnotic induction plus analgesia suggestion. The findings suggest that unpleasantness-focused hypnotic analgesia reduces pain via its effect on the rumination component of pain catastrophizing.
Clinical evidence for the effectiveness of hypnosis in the treatment of acute procedural pain was critically evaluated based on reports from randomized controlled clinical trials (RCTs). Results from the 29 RCTs meeting inclusion criteria suggest that hypnosis decreases pain compared to standard care and attention control groups and that it is at least as effective as comparable adjunct psychological or behavioral therapies. In addition, applying hypnosis in multiple sessions prior to the day of the procedure produced the highest percentage of significant results. Hypnosis was most effective in minor surgical procedures. However, interpretations are limited by considerable risk of bias. Further studies using minimally effective control conditions and systematic control of intervention dose and timing are required to strengthen conclusions.
Hypnosis modulates pain perception and tolerance by affecting cortical and subcortical activity in brain regions involved in these processes. By reviewing functional neuroimaging studies focusing on pain perception under hypnosis, the authors aimed to identify brain activation-deactivation patterns occurring in hypnosis-modulated pain conditions. Different changes in brain functionality occurred throughout all components of the pain network and other brain areas. The anterior cingulate cortex appears to be central in modulating pain circuitry activity under hypnosis. Most studies also showed that the neural functions of the prefrontal, insular, and somatosensory cortices are consistently modified during hypnosis-modulated pain conditions. Functional neuroimaging studies support the clinical use of hypnosis in the management of pain conditions.
Hypnotherapy’s effectiveness in improving and controlling chronic pain of various etiologies has been demonstrated by studies; the mechanism by which hypnosis does this is more complex than a simple induction of muscle relaxation. This study reveals, in addition to this mechanism, a deeper dimension of hypnotherapy from the vantage of a patient with a medical-surgical background, diagnosed with a pain disorder and major severe depressive disorder in addition to incurable painful symptoms, through treatment associated with hypnoanalysis. Following psychotherapy, which included some elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy, a complete remission of the anxious-depressive mood and the painful symptoms was achieved.