University of Washington

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

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The role of suggestions in hypnosis for chronic pain: a review of the literature


Dillworth, T, & Jensen, MP



Publication Info:

Open Pain Journal, 3:39-51


Several controlled trials have demonstrated that hypnosis is an efficacious treatment for chronic pain. However, less attention has been given to the specific procedures and suggestions used in hypnotic treatments in research. The goal of this review was to address the issue of differences in the content of hypnotic suggestions, including pain management suggestions, non-pain related suggestions, and posthypnotic suggestions, in the context of published clinical trials of hypnosis for chronic pain management. This review focused on the types of suggestions used in twenty five studies comparing hypnosis to active treatments (e.g., relaxation, biofeedback), non-treatment control groups (e.g., standard care/wait-list control, supportive attention), or both in adult populations with various chronic pain conditions. Overall, these studies found hypnosis to be more effective than non-treatment control groups and similarly effective when compared to active treatments on pain-related outcomes when either pain-related suggestions or non-pain related suggestions were used. However, for studies that included both pain-specific and non-pain related suggestions, hypnosis was found to be superior to active treatments on a variety of pain-related outcomes.

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