What’s More Effective: 2 Sessions of Recorded Hypnosis or 8 Hypnotherapy Sessions with a Live Human?

Researchers from National University of Singapore conducted a randomized, four-arm design study with 100 veterans suffering from chronic lower back pain. The goal was to test the efficacy of hypnosis for alleviating lower back pain, as well as learn about the minimum dose required to produce meaningful benefits.

Additionally, the role of home practice was assessed as well as how well improvements were sustained beyond 3 months.

The groups were (1) an eight-session self-hypnosis training intervention without audio recordings for home practice; (2) an eight-session self-hypnosis - intervention with recordings; (3) a two-session self-hypnosis training intervention with recordings and brief weekly reminder telephone calls; and (4) an eight-session active (biofeedback) control intervention.

Participants in all four groups reported significant pre- to post-treatment improvements in pain intensity, pain interference and sleep quality.

The 3 hypnosis groups in combination had significantly more reduction of pain intensity than the biofeedback control group. Interestingly, there was no significant difference among the three conditions.

Over half of the participants who received hypnosis reported clinically meaningful (≥ 30%) reductions in pain intensity, and they maintained these benefits for at least 6 months after treatment. Neither hypnotizability nor amount of home practice was associated significantly with treatment outcome.

The findings indicate that two sessions of self-hypnosis training with audio recordings for home practice may be as effective as eight sessions of hypnosis treatment with a practitioner. If replicated in other patient samples, the findings have important implications about cost, accessibility, scalability and practicality of using audio recordings of hypnosis for treatment and management of chronic lower back pain.

Citation: Tan G1, Rintala DH, Jensen MP, Fukui T, Smith D, Williams   A randomized controlled trial of hypnosis compared with biofeedback for adults with chronic low back pain. European Journal of Pain. 2015 Feb;19 (2):271-80. doi: 10.1002/ejp.545. Epub 2014 Jun 17.

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