Modern hypnosis has its origin in medical research. One of its first uses was hypnotherapy pain relief. However there is still considerable resistance in medical circles to accepting hypnotherapy as a valid technique.
Hypnotherapy pain relief is beginning to be accepted a valid therapy more and more in mainstream medicine. A recent research study at the University of Queensland goes some way towards showing that the benefits of hypnotherapy for pain relief are very real.
The University of Queensland's Child Health Research Centre carried out an investigation into the effect of hypnotherapy on anxiety, pain and stress. The research objective was to test whether hypnotherapy had a measurable effect on the distress of burns patients.
The patients were children with extensive burns, who had to have their dressings changed frequently. Changing burns dressings is often very painful. Children who know that their dressings are going to be changed soon often show raised levels of anxiety and stress.
There is some evidence to suggest that the pain and anxiety can manifest itself in later life as PTSD and other psychological problems. Anything that can reduce the stress and anxiety of the hospital treatment can have long-term benefits.
The study involved 62 burns patients aged between four and 16 years old. Half the group had hypnotherapy, half the group had standard burns care. Anxiety, pain, stress and wound healing were measured at each change of dressing.
The results were very clear. At the second change of dressing, children in the hypnotherapy group reported a reduction of 70% in their pain levels compared with children in the standard group. The hypnotherapy group also had only one third of the stress levels of the other group. At the third change of dressing the results were even more dramatic. The hypnotherapy children had a 90% reduction in pain, and 84% less anxiety.
The pain and stress levels were estimated by asking the child how they felt. But this was backed up by heart rate monitors. The hypnotherapy children has significantly lower pulse rates before and after the third dressing. Pulse rate gives an objective method of measuring pain and stress.
Hypnotherapy has been used on adult burns patients before. Children and teenagers usually show much stronger responses to hypnosis. This research has confirmed that.
The medical benefits of hypnotherapy could be used in other areas of children's medicine. Children get very anxious when treated for asthma and fractures, and when approached with a needle. Hypnotherapy might prove very effective in all these areas.
Source: Chester et al. 2016 Trials 17:233