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Hypnosis and Headaches

Below are research articles on hypnosis and headaches with the key points highlighted in blue for your ease of reading.

Pain. 1994 Sep;58(3):331-40. Autogenic training and cognitive self-hypnosis for the treatment of recurrent headaches in three different subject groups. ter Kuile MM, Spinhoven P, Linssen AC, Zitman FG, Van Dyck R, Rooijmans HG. Department of Psychiatry, University of Leiden, The Netherlands.

The aims of this study were to (a) investigate the efficacy of autogenic training (AT) and cognitive self-hypnosis training (CSH) for the treatment of chronic headaches in comparison with a waiting-list control (WLC) condition, (b) investigate the influence of subject recruitment on treatment outcome and (c) explore whether the level of hypnotizability is related to therapy outcome. Three different subjects groups (group 1, patients (n = 58) who were referred by a neurological outpatient clinic; group 2, members (n = 48) of the community who responded to an advertisement in a newspaper; and group 3, students (n = 40) who responded to an advertisement in a university newspaper) were allocated at random to a therapy or WLC condition. During treatment, there was a significant reduction in the Headache Index scores of the subjects in contrast with the controls. At post-treatment and follow-up almost no significant differences were observed between the 2 treatment conditions or the 3 referral sources regarding the Headache Index, psychological distress (SCL-90) scores and medication use. Follow-up measurements indicated that therapeutic improvement was maintained. In both treatment conditions, the high-hypnotizable subjects achieved a greater reduction in headache pain at post-treatment and follow-up than did the low-hypnotizable subjects. It is concluded that a relatively simple and highly structured relaxation technique for the treatment of chronic headache subjects may be preferable to more complex cognitive hypnotherapeutic procedures, irrespective of the source of recruitment. The level of hypnotic susceptibility seems to be a subject characteristic which is associated with a more favourable outcome in subjects treated with AT or CSH.

Chronic and episodic headaches in children and adolescents are a common problem. Therefore, the growing resistance against frequent use of drugs is quite justified. This study was initiated in search for other helpful therapeutic approaches. The aim was to compare the effect of 5 sessions of hypnosis/ self-hypnosis given at weekly intervals and lasting half an hour each with two psychological treatments requiring the same amount of time, namely behavior therapy and talks to the doctor. Despite the small number of patients, both types of treatments were effective. However, the hypnosis/self-hypnosis seems to be superior not only in terms of frequency and intensity of the headaches but also concerning the patients' ability to keep their headaches and their well-being under control.

Pediatrics. 1987 Apr;79(4):593-7. Comparison of self-hypnosis and propranolol in the treatment of juvenile classic migraine. Olness K, MacDonald JT, Uden DL.

In a prospective study we compared propranolol, placebo, and self-hypnosis in the treatment of juvenile classic migraine. Children aged 6 to 12 years with classic migraine who had no previous specific treatment were randomized into propranolol (at 3 mg/kg/d) or placebo groups for a 3-month period and then crossed over for 3 months. After this 6-month period, each child was taught self-hypnosis and used it for 3 months. Twenty-eight patients completed the entire study. The mean number of headaches per child for 3 months during the placebo period was 13.3 compared with 14.9 during the propranolol period and 5.8 during the self-hypnosis period. Statistical analysis showed a significant association between decrease in headache frequency and self-hypnosis training (P = .045). There was no significant change in subjective or objective measures of headache severity with either therapy.

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