Hypnosis Reduces Neuropathic Pain in HIV Patients

A team of researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York tested whether hypnosis could be a useful intervention in the management of painful HIV neuropathic pain. 

This is the most common nervous system disorder in HIV patients, and one that adversely affects quality of life. No interventions have been shown to be consistently effective in treating this, known as HIV-DSP (distal sensory polyneuropathy).

Participants were 36 volunteers with HIV-DSP who received three weekly training sessions in self-hypnosis. They were followed for pain for 7 weeks prior to the intervention, and for 7 weeks post-intervention.  

All of them remained on the same standard-of-care pain regimen for the entire 17 weeks of the protocol. The primary outcome measure was the Short Form McGill Pain Questionnaire Scale (SFMPQ) total pain score. Other outcome measures assessed changes in mood, emotions and quality of life.

Mean total pain scores were reduced from 17.8 to 13.2 (F[1, 35]= 16.06, P < 0.001). The reductions were stable throughout the 7-week post-intervention period. At exit, 26 out of 36 (72%) had improved pain scores. Of the 26 who improved, mean pain reduction was 44%. Improvement was found irrespective of whether or not participants were taking pain medications. There was also evidence for positive changes in measures of mood and quality of life.

The researchers conclude that brief hypnosis interventions show promise as a useful and well-tolerated tool for managing painful HIV-DSP, and merits further investigation.

Citation: Dorfman D et al.  Hypnosis for treatment of HIV neuropathic pain: a preliminary report. Pain Medicine. 2013 Jul;14 (7):pp. 1048-56. doi: 10.1111/pme.12074. Epub 2013 Apr 8.

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