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7. Headaches

In 2007, a Professor at the University of Utah School of Medicine reviewed numerous studies on hypnosis for headaches and concluded that hypnosis is a well-established, effective treatment for headaches and migraines.[7.1]

In 2007, a researcher from the University of Minnesota studied 144 children and adolescents who were taught self-hypnosis to help with recurrent headaches. The results showed the hypnosis significantly helped with frequency of headaches, intensity of headaches, and duration of headaches.[7.2]


7.1. Review of the Efficacy of Clinical Hypnosis with Headaches and Migraines

Results: Concluded that hypnosis meets the criteria to be considered a well-established, effective treatment for headaches and migraines. Furthermore, hypnosis does not carry any risk of causing an adverse reaction.

Notes: This was a review of the numerous studies on hypnosis for headaches. The author also recommends the following for those who frequently wake up in the morning with a headache or migraine: a self-hypnosis tape (that is left open-ended at its conclusion) can be used at bedtime to promote calming and deep relaxation, with repetitive suggestions that "As you sleep, your jaw will remain relaxed and at ease throughout the night, free from tension and tightness. And if there is a need to clench anything, your mind will cause you to clench a hand into a fist, but your jaw will remain loose and limp, relaxed and at ease as you sleep."

Int'l Jrnl of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Vol. 55(2), April 2007; 207-219
By: Corydon Hammond, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA


7.2. Self-Hypnosis Training for Headaches in Children and Adolescents

Results: Data were available for 144 patients in this patient self-selected and uncontrolled observation. Compared with self-reports before learning self-hypnosis, children and youths who learned self-hypnosis for recurrent headaches reported reduction in frequency of headache from an average of 4.5 per week to 1.4 per week (P < .01), reduction in intensity (on a self-rating scale of 0 to 12) from an average of 10.3 to 4.7, P < .01, and reduction in average duration from 23.6 hours to 3.0 hours, (P < .01). There were no adverse side effects of self-hypnosis. Conclusion: training in self-hypnosis is associated with significant improvement of chronic recurrent headaches in children and adolescents.

Notes: A retrospective review was conducted of outpatient clinical records of 178 consecutive youths referred to the Behavioral Pediatrics Program (University of Minnesota) from 1988 to 2001 for recurrent headaches. All patients were taught self-hypnosis for self-regulation. Intensity, frequency, and duration of headaches before, during, and after treatment were measured. Outcomes included number and frequency of visits, types of medication, and nature of self-hypnosis practice.

Induction (initiation) of hypnosis was typically easily begun with simple focus on eye closure and imagination of any one of the patient's several favorite activities. Intensification or deepening of the hypnotic experience was accomplished with suggestions for multisensory imagery (eg, encouraging the patient to imagine being in their favorite place, enjoying what they see, hear, feel, taste, and smell there), progressive relaxation (eg, head to toe or toe to head), or both.

Hypnotic suggestions for control of headaches ("HA") were offered as a "menu" from which the patient could choose, for example, "When you have a HA, let yourself imagine you are somewhere where you never have a HA, and go there," "When you have a HA, picture in your mind that ruler from 0 to 12 on which you measure your HA... Notice what number it is on, perhaps 8 or 6 or 3 or 9 or 7... and then watch the number go lower. Maybe you will do that as though you were on an elevator... if your HA is a 7, push the button to ride down to 6, and then and... then... 4... and... then... all the way to 0," "OR maybe you will imagine your HA is a certain shape and color and in another part of your mind is the color and shape of happy and comfortable... and you can watch the HA shape and color in your mind get smaller and smaller and smaller while the happy and comfort shape get bigger and bigger until it fills the screen in your imagination," "OR perhaps you will have another way in your mind. Whichever works best for you is the best for you." Before conclusion of the first hypnotic session, all patients were taught precisely how to do SH at home and were encouraged to practice this two to three times daily.

J Pediatr. 2007 Jun;150(6):635-9
By: D. P. Kohen, R. Zajac, Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

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