Hypnotherapy Treatment for Fibromyalgia

Hypnotherapy has been proven to be effective in altering one's mood and perception of pain, which can help people with Fibromyalgia manage the symptoms of the disease and improve their quality of life.  Although it may be surprising to some, the management and relief of pain through hypnotherapy has been proven by many research studies to be effective for people with Fibromyalgia in decreasing pain and providing symptom relief.  This is believed to be because of how hypnosis interacts with the brain and with how it can have "direct involvement of a network of areas [in the brain] widely associated with the pain 'neuromatrix' in fibromyalgia pain experience."

Hypnosis can be done by seeing a hypnotherapist or through self guided hypnosis or by using hypnotherapy CDs and recordings which teach you how to do self hypnosis.  An additional benefit of hypnosis is that it has no real risks, and you may learn skils you can then apply to other areas of your life.

What You Can Do Right Now

Frequently Asked Question about Hypnotherapy

Clinical studies suggest that hypnosis may improve immune function, increase relaxation, decrease stress, and ease pain and feelings of anxiety.

Other conditions it has been successful in treating are:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Tension headaches
  • Alopecia areata
  • Asthma
  • Phobias
  • Insomnia
  • Addictions
  • Bedwetting
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Phobias
  • Labor and delivery
  • Skin disorders [such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema (atopic dermatitis)]
  • Stress
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Cancer related pain
  • Weight loss
  • Eating disorders
  • Warts
  • Indigestion (dyspepsia)

History of Hypnotherapy

Hypnosis was first associated with the work of Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer in the 1700's, who believed that illness was caused by magnetic fluids in the body getting out of balance.  He used magnets and other hypnotic techniques to treat people but the medical community was not convinced and he was accused of fraud and his techniques called unscientific.

Hypnotherapy regained popularity in the mid 1900's due to Milton H. Erickson who was a psychiatrist using hypnosis in his practice.  In 1958 hypnotherapy was recognized as a valid medical procedure by the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association.

Theory behind Fibromyalgia Treatment using Hypnotherapy

The question of how hypnosis helps to reduce pain is a fascinating one.  While some people well say it is a placebo effect or the power of suggestion, in fact hypnosis creates changes in the brain that can be viewed using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which measures the blood flow in the brain and shows pictures of what activity is happening in different parts of the brain at different points in time.

In a fascinating study in 2004, researchers set up fMRI machines and then asked participants to identify when a hot surface became painful to the touch and then watched where the brain sent the pain signals, both with and without hypnosis.  Under hypnosis, all the subjects reported reduced or no pain, even at the temperatures they had previously perceived as painful.  What the fMRI showed was that the activity in the primary sensory cortex was significantly reduced as was activity in other high-level pain areas of the brain.  Nothing was changed in the lower levels of the brain, which they took to indicate that hypnosis only produces changes in the conscious levels of the brain.

"The major finding from our study, which used fMRI for the first time to investigate brain activity under hypnosis for pain suppression, is that we see reduced activity in areas of the pain network and increased activity in other areas of the brain under hypnosis," said Sebastian Schulz-Stubner, M.D., Ph.D., UI assistant professor (clinical) of anesthesia and first author of the study. "The increased activity might be specific for hypnosis or might be non-specific, but it definitely does something to reduce the pain signal input into the cortical structure."

So what really changes with hypnosis is the perception of pain.  This could be dangerous in some situations where pain is necessary as a warning of danger to the body, but in the case of Fibromyalgia where much of the pain is unrelated to any danger and is believed to be triggered by some malfunctioning within the brain and the central nervous system, this provides significant potential relief.

Normal pain signals occur when the body experiences pain and then sends a signal through the nervous system to the spinal cord, which processes it and passes it on to the brain.  The brain then passes the signal through the mid-brain region to the cortical area (where we identify sensations) and that creates the conscious awareness of pain.  Hypnotism appears to short circuit this process and prevent the signal from being sent through the brain to the cortical area (and then on to the sensory part of the brain), and thus preventing the feeling or perception of the pain.

Research of Fibromyalgia Treatment using Hypnotherapy

Studies have shown that hypnosis is an effective tool for reducing the subjective experience of pain and in particular that hypnosis can be effective in a variety of ways for people with fibromyalgia.  Hypnosis has been shown to have a significant and measurable affect on the perception of pain and, in fact, to produce better results than pharmacological treatments in one of the studies below.

Efficacy of hypnosis/guided imagery in fibromyalgia syndrome--a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials (2011)

Summary: This was a systematic review of a number of clinical trials looking at the benefits of hypnosis and guided imagery for the treatment of Fibromyalgia symptoms. Six randomized controlled trials were examined in light of a set of outcomes including pain, sleep, fatigue, depressed mood and health-related quality of life. The conclusion was that there were some challenges because of differences in how the studies were conducted but that hypnosis/guided imagery did reduce pain significantly compared to control groups at the end of the studies. They did not have an impact on quality of life. The other measures being studied could not be addressed because of limitation in the sample sizes and differences between the studies.

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3132205

Multicomponent cognitive-behavioral group therapy with hypnosis for the treatment of fibromyalgia: long-term outcome (Jan 2012)

Summary:This study compared cognitive-behavioural therapy against cognitive-behavioural therapy with hypnosis against pharmacological treatment for 93 people with Fibromyalgia. the outcomes that were measured were pain intensity, catastrophizing, psychological distress, functionality, and sleep disturbances were assessed before treatment, immediately after treatment, and at 3- and 6-months after treatment. The results showed that people with fibromyalgia who received multicomponent cognitive-behavioural therapy alone or cognitive-behavioural therapy with hypnosis showed greater improvements than patients who received only standard pharmacological care; and 2) adding hypnosis enhanced the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioural therapy.

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22285609

Fibromyalgia pain and its modulation by hypnotic and non-hypnotic suggestion: an fMRI analysis (2009)

Summary: This study proceeded from the knowledge that suggestions following a hypnotic induction can readily modulate the subjective experience of pain and went on to explore whether suggestion without hypnosis was equally effective at decreasing the subjective experience of pain for people with fibromyalgia. The result found was that patients claimed significantly more control over their pain and reported greater pain reduction when hypnotised. Activation of the midbrain, cerebellum, thalamus, and midcingulate, primary and secondary sensory, inferior parietal, insula and prefrontal cortices correlated with reported changes in pain with hypnotic and non-hypnotic suggestion. The study concludes that "Our results thus provide evidence for the greater efficacy of suggestion following a hypnotic induction. They also indicate direct involvement of a network of areas widely associated with the pain 'neuromatrix' in fibromyalgia pain experience."

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18653363

Stories of Fibromyalgia Treatment using Hypnotherapy

Many people talk about doing self hypnosis and or using guided hypnotherapy tapes as a way of both relaxing and managing pain.  Others talk about other forms of relaxation such as meditation and prayer. But many people are still looking for specific stories of experiences with hypnosis for Fibromyalgia, so if you have any to share, please do add them!

Questions and Comments about Hypnotherapy for Fibromyalgia

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