Fibromyalgia is a severe condition that is associated with significant and chronic disability and pain. The criterion for diagnosis involves pain and or tenderness on 11 of 18 possible muscle tendon locations in the body. Some patients of the condition only experience chronic pain whilst others also suffer from other debilitating symptoms such as fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, nocturnal paresthesia, and anxiety to name a simple few. Women are more likely to have the condition than men and the total prevalence of the condition is roughly 2% of the population.
Multidisciplinary treatment has been seen to be the best form of treatment – treatment that includes medication
management, education, physical exercise and cognitive behaviour therapy or CBT. The treatment with a high degree of empirical evidence which suggests a high degree of efficacy in pain relief is CBT. CBT has been found to help improve fatigue, pain, mood, and function in an array of studies looking at fibromyalgia. So far there have only been a few studies that have looked at hypnosis and its efficacy in treating fibromyalgia.
There has been one study that has shown that hypnosis can help fibromyalgia sufferers’ deal with sleep disorders, fatigue and muscular pain and these benefits were maintained for 24 weeks post study. However to date, there has been no studies that have looked at the efficacy of CBT and hypnosis as a treatment form. Researchers from the Rovira i Virgili University in Spain performed the first study of its kind, looking at the efficacy of CBT and hypnosis in treating sufferers of fibromyalgia.
There were a total of 39 fibromyalgia sufferers out of a possible 47 who were recruited for the study. Participants were assigned to one of three treatment groups – the first being the standard medication management group (control group), a strictly CBT group and a CBT plus hypnotherapy group. The control group was given standard and conventional pharmacological treatments which included antidepressants, sedatives, myorelaxants and analgesics. The CBT group was given 12 x 90 minute sessions of CBT treatment and training which included education, cognitive restructuring, pain perception, relaxation training, and assertiveness training among others. Participants that were assigned to the CBT plus hypnosis group were given all of the above with the exception of relaxation training, but they were given 12 x 20 minute group sessions of self hypnosis training designed to lower pain perception and to alleviate a host of other negative symptoms associated with the condition.
The results of the study showed that people who received CBT or CBT plus hypnosis showed a statistically significant improvement than those who received standard conventional care. Furthermore, patients that received CBT plus hypnosis were shown to have significantly improved even more than the CBT group alone. These participants reported lowered pain levels and intensity. The hypnotherapy benefits noted in this study are consistent with other past studies which have highlighted hypnotherapy’s efficacy in treating chronic pain.
Castel, A., Salvat, M., Sala, J. and Rull, M. (2009), Cognitive-behavioural group treatment with hypnosis: a randomized pilot trail in fibromyalgia. Contemporary Hypnosis, 26: 48–59. doi: 10.1002/ch.372