Hypnotic approaches for chronic pain management: Clinical implications of recent research findings.

Chronic pain remains a significant burden for both individuals and society. Standard medical treatment for chronic pain is often inadequate (Turk, Wilson, & Cahana, 2011), and it is common for frustrated patients to seek costly treatments from multiple health care professionals without significant relief.

Although a number of psychological approaches to the treatment of chronic pain have demonstrated important success over the last few decades (see Jensen & Turk, 2014, this issue), there is a need for additional and robust treatment options that could benefit individuals with chronic pain.

The empirical support for hypnosis for chronic pain management has flourished over the past two decades. Clinical trials show that hypnosis is effective for reducing chronic pain, although outcomes vary between individuals. The findings from these clinical trials also show that hypnotic treatments have a number of positive effects beyond pain control. Neurophysiological studies reveal that hypnotic analgesia has clear effects on brain and spinal-cord functioning that differ as a function of the specific hypnotic suggestions made, providing further evidence for the specific effects of hypnosis.

The research results have important implications for how clinicians can help their clients experience maximum benefits from hypnosis and treatments that include hypnotic components.

Two general findings from hypnosis trials have particular clinical and theoretical relevance: (a) There is a high degree of variability in response to hypnotic analgesia, and (b) the benefits of hypnosis treatment go beyond pain relief.