A recent study by researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine highlighted some interesting findings concerning self hypnosis and progressive muscle relaxation training on the negative effects of multiple sclerosis and chronic pain. Twenty two patients were recruited for the study, all which had multiple sclerosis and chronic pain; eight were assigned to the self hypnosis treatment and training, whilst the other fourteen were either given the self hypnosis or PMR treatments and training. The hypnosis group reported significant improvement in post treatment measures than did the PMR group. These gains and improvements were held and maintained at the three month follow up. Many of the individuals from both groups reported that they continually implemented the techniques and methods taught in the study, to lower pain and its negative effects. The general hypnotizability of a person in the study was not important in the outcome of the lowered pain levels, however the expectancy of the individuals involved in the study was. If a person believed that the techniques and methods taught would be beneficial, they would be more likely to have shown improvement in post treatment measures.
There were two important limitations to the study that should be noted. The first being the low number of study participants. Further research should include a greater number of participants to lower variability and to improve the generalizability of future like minded studies. The second limitation being the quasi experimental design. The difficulty in researching the efficacy of hypnosis is the difficulty in designing study designs that are the same across the board for each individual in these studies. The fact that pain in many cases is subjective makes this even harder.
The fact remains that further research needs to be done to both verify the results of this study and to also enhance the knowledge base in this area, to understand why hypnosis has been shown to significantly decrease pain measures for sufferers of chronic pain and Multiple Sclerosis. Regardless, this study provides evidence that hypnosis can be effective in treating chronic pain ailments.
Jensen, M., Barber, J., Romano, J., Molton, I., Raichle, K., Osborne, T., et al. (2009). A comparison of self-hypnosis versus progressive muscle relaxation in patients with multiple sclerosis and chronic pain. International Journal of Clinical & Experimental Hypnosis, 57(2), 198-221. Retrieved from CINAHL with Full Text database.