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From Prevention Magazine,
Healing Power of Hypnosis.”
The latest research shows that Hypnosis eases pain,
speeds healing, increases fertility, even fights
by Alexis Jetter.
Wendy W. couldn't believe it: Her cycles had always been very regular, but the minute she decided to try to
get pregnant, she stopped menstruating. After 4 months without a period, the 24-year-old nurse at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical
Center in Lebanon, NH, consulted an OB/GYN who was a fertility specialist. He couldn't find the slightest thing wrong with
her or her husband. Okay, she concluded, I guess my mind has stopped my period. She called the hospital's psychiatry department.
"I want someone good," she said. Da-shih Hu, MD, a psychiatrist and an assistant professor at Dartmouth Medical
School, invited Wendy into his office. They talked about her life, marriage, and work but found no obvious reasons why her
reproductive system had shut down. When Hu suggested that hypnosis might help, Wendy bristled. "I thought he was literally
nuts," she says. "I knew nothing about hypnosis, except that it's a bad Vegas act. And I hate magicians." But
two sessions later, with nothing to lose, she decided to give it a try. Hu asked her to close her eyes, take a deep breath,
and imagine a wave of relaxation spreading slowly from her toes to the top of her head. "It was the feeling you get right
before you go to sleep," she recalls. At the doctor's instruction, she took several more deep breaths, until she felt
herself drifting off. Soon, her head slumped toward her chest, and the straight-back chair seemed to morph into a comfortable
recliner. Hu asked Wendy to imagine a safe, restful place to visit, and at her suggestion, they "walked" to a waterfall.
"Do you hear the sounds of water?" Hu asked. "Do you feel a breeze?" A quiet fluidity entered her soul,
instilling a sense of peace she'd never known.
"I was in the room, but I wasn't there," she says. "I was above myself, looking down, like a mom looking
down at a child. And I had this amazingly powerful feeling: I felt like I could fix myself." Hu later asked Wendy to
think of a day when she should start menstruating. On that very day, her period started. Soon afterward, she became pregnant,
and 9 months later, her son was born.
A funny thing is happening to hypnosis, long a feature of vaudevillian routines: It's becoming respectable, working
its way into the nation's premier research hospitals, medical journals, and doctors' offices. An increasing number of physicians
are using hypnosis to ease patients through childbirth, angioplasty, chemotherapy, breast biopsy--even full-on surgery. Hypnosis
is helping people get over fractures, burns, migraines, asthma, fibroids, peptic ulcers, and skin disorders. The same techniques
practiced by ancient Egyptians 2,000 years ago and "discovered" by Austrian physician Franz Anton Mesmer in the
late 1700s are now scoring impressive results in medical experiments across the United States, Europe, and beyond. Mind, it
seems, really can overcome matter. "If somebody told you there was a medication that could treat 100 different conditions,
didn't require a prescription, was free, and had no bad side effects, you wouldn't believe them," says Harvard Medical
School psychologist Carol Ginandes, PhD. "I don't want to sound like a snake oil salesman, because hypnosis is not a
magic wand. But it should be made available as a supplementary treatment for all patients who could benefit. Right now."
Helping the Body Heal Itself..
Hypnosis appears to speed recovery from many types of
trauma. In a 2003 pilot study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, Harvard's Ginandes and
colleague Patricia Brooks, PhD, evaluated 18 women who'd just undergone reconstructive breast surgery. The patients were assigned
randomly to one of three groups for 8 weeks. All groups received conventional follow-up care; the second also met weekly with
a therapist for emotional support, while the third met individually with Brooks, who used hypnotic suggestion in a 30-minute
session each week to reduce pain and inflammation and speed soft-tissue repair. An audiotape was made for each woman in the
hypnosis group so she could practice self-hypnosis daily at home. One week after surgery and again after 7 more weeks, a surgical
team, which was "blinded" to the therapy assignments, assessed the incision sites. Their conclusion: The hypnosis
patients healed much faster. The women also reported that they experienced less pain and quicker recovery. An earlier Ginandes
pilot study on hypnosis and bone fractures, funded by the National Institutes of Health, found similar results: faster healing,
greater mobility, less discomfort, and reduced use of pain medication among orthopedic patients who used hypnosis.
Physicians have long been frustrated in their attempts to treat patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), whose
symptoms - sharp abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation, bloating, gas, and backache--are compounded by stress, anxiety,
and depression. In 2003, doctors in Manchester, England, released a study that had tracked 204 IBS patients for 5 years. Patients
at South Manchester University Hospital attended up to 12 hypnosis sessions over 3 months and were encouraged to visualize
soothing yet empowering scenes inside their colons. One woman imagined her gut as a flowing, colorful scarf. Another saw her
colon as a runaway train whose driver had gone to sleep. She took over the controls and slowed down the train to a comfortable
speed. The results exceeded the researchers' expectations: More than 70% of the patients rated themselves "very much
better" or "moderately better" after hypnotherapy. Five years later, 81% of patients who'd initially benefited
from the treatment reported that the improvements had lasted. Their anxiety and depression were reduced by at least half,
as were their reliance on pain pills and the number of doctor visits they made.
In another study, Olafur Palsson, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School
of Medicine, reported an 80% success rate among 18 IBS patients who were treated with hypnosis after conventional care failed.
Those results, coupled with several other recent studies on IBS and hypnosis, are remarkable, says psychologist Arreed Barabasz,
PhD, director of the Hypnosis Laboratory at Washington State University and editor of the International Journal of Clinical
and Experimental Hypnosis. "These findings show that benefits of hypnotherapy for IBS are long lasting and that
continued improvement after hypnosis treatment ends is the norm." http://www.ibshypnosis.com/
Warts are uniquely vulnerable to hypnosis--it beats the usual treatment, salicylic acid, hands down. In a Tulane University
study of 41 patients whose warts would not respond to other treatments, 80% were cured with hypnosis. Studies suggest that
other skin conditions may also respond: In a trial of 18 patients, hypnotherapy cleared up eczema symptoms--itching, sleep
disturbance, and stress--for up to 2 years.
Few examples of hypnotic healing are as dramatic as those that come from treating burns. Dabney Ewin, MD, a clinical
professor of surgery and psychiatry at Tulane University School of Medicine, hypnotizes burn victims in the emergency room.
Ewin's published case studies include a restaurant worker who burned his arm up to his elbow in a 370°F deep-fat fryer.
The doctor induced a deep trance within 4 hours of the accident and provided hypnotic suggestion--"all your injured areas
are cool and comfortable"--to the victim. Ewin and others have shown that such care can slow or even
stop the inflammation and blistering that can cause permanent damage. In the worker's case, the injury healed in 17 days with
relatively little scarring. Ewin uses a series of slides to show examples of burns in which early intervention prevented serious,
Work with burn victims demonstrates another benefit of hypnosis:
It's an astoundingly powerful pain reliever, says David Patterson, PhD, chief psychologist at the University of Washington's
Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, who co-published an extensive review of the topic in the American Psychological Association's
Psychological Bulletin in 2003. "Hypnosis seems to be useful for virtually every clinical pain problem imaginable,"
he says. One of the biggest risks after a severe burn is infection, which can lead to scarring, amputation, or even death.
To prevent that, nurses at burn units have to remove patients' dead skin every day for several weeks, even months, in a process
called debridement. The pain is so severe, it can cause more anguish than the original burn. To ease it, patients are given
morphine and other powerful pain relievers, but those drugs can be habit-forming and can cause confusion, gastrointestinal
upset, and breathing trouble. At Seattle's Harborview Medical Center, Patterson has been using hypnosis for 20 years to make
that pain bearable. His team of 10 psychologists teaches the most severely burned patients, who appear to benefit most from
hypnosis, how to induce a state of relaxation and comfort. The session includes an instruction--called a posthypnotic suggestion--that
cues the patient to feel the same level of comfort days, weeks, or even months later. A simple touch on the shoulder by a
nurse, for example, if suggested in the original session, can trigger a trance, enabling a patient to undergo wound care without
pain. "Hypnosis is very well suited for burn pain treatment," says Patterson, "because the pain is intense
but short-lived, and you know when it's going to happen."
Pregnant women, too, have a pretty good sense of when the pain is going to start--and hypnosis has proven helpful in
easing labor. Several studies, including a new one out of the University of Adelaide in Australia that surveyed 77 women who'd
been hypnotized during delivery, have shown it can shorten labor time, reduce pain and the use of pain medication, decrease
the risk of complications, and speed recovery. In the Australian study, hypnotized mothers were less likely than others to
need an epidural or labor-inducing drugs. Some other reasons you might want to try it: Children born to hypnotized mothers
scored higher on Apgar tests (a measure of health)--and the mothers were less prone to postpartum depression. What's more,
those who have previously given birth without hypnosis tell doctors that it makes labor a more pleasant experience.
People with peptic ulcers may not know when pain will strike, but they can still use posthypnotic suggestion. Patients
in a British study were able to regulate their secretion of gastric acid, so that only 53% experienced further pain, compared
with 100% relapse in a control group.
One in four Americans doesn't get regular dental care, or avoids dentists altogether, simply because of anxiety. Some
dentists and oral surgeons assume that hypnosis takes too much time to be useful in their busy offices, but most patients
can benefit with just 5 minutes of hypnosis-related relaxation training, says Al Forgione, PhD, a psychology professor at
the Craniofacial Pain Center of the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. The technique won't eliminate the need for
Novocain, but it takes enough of the edge off to allow fearful dental patients to get the care they need.
Finally, there have been more studies on the effect of hypnosis on headaches than on any other form of chronic pain.
It helps reduce the frequency, duration, and intensity of migraines and other headaches by as much as 30%.
Making Surgery Safer..
Robert Scott, 64, was hit by a truck when he was 4
years old, leaving him with a crushed bladder. Now, with a good-natured smile, the retired school custodian relies on hypnosis
to cope with the minor but painful surgery he must routinely undergo. Scott comes to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
in Boston every 8 to 10 weeks to have a urinary catheter--which is attached to his kidney through a hole in his back--pulled
out and replaced. While a team of doctors and nurses in green scrubs gathers surgical equipment and readies the massive, whirring,
x-ray-guided scope overhead, Scott lies on his stomach, listening to the softly delivered instructions of Gloria Salazar,
MD, a radiologist and hypnotherapist. She sits by Scott's head, encouraging him to relax and imagine a place he'd rather be.
"Your body needs to be here," she says gently. "But you do not." She reads to him from a script used on
all hypnosis patients at the hospital. Scott closes his hazel eyes, takes a series of deep breaths, and seems to drift off
to sleep. As doctors insert a long guide wire into his back, Scott doesn't flinch. When they fish the 12-inch catheter out
of his kidney and guide a new one down in its place, he doesn't seem to even notice.
"With other patients, we use intravenous pain medication," says attending radiologist Salomao Faintuch, MD,
as he pulls the tube out. "But we know Mr. Scott responds well to hypnosis, so we use only local anesthesia." Sedatives
such as Valium and morphine prolong operations and can cause complications, Faintuch adds, so it's better to do without, if
the patient can handle it. Scott can handle it because he's whisked his mind far away from the doctors probing deep inside
his body. "I have a meadow that I go to, and there's a pond, which I put ducks on," he says after Salazar guides
him back to full consciousness with a re-awakening cue. "I take my granddaughter fishing. We talk and play." Five
years ago, when he got intravenous sedation instead of hypnosis, Scott says, "it felt like someone took a piece of steel
and stuck it right into my kidney." Now, he says: "I feel a lot of pressure, but no pain." Does the meadow
really exist? "No." Does the grand-daughter? "Oh, yes," he says with a smile. "But she's only 2 months
This is no ordinary hospital ward, but then its director, Elvira Lang, MD, is not your average administrator. Lang,
a radiologist and Harvard Medical School professor, has transformed the interventional radiology department at Beth Israel
Deaconess--where MRI’s, x-rays, and ultrasounds are used in unclogging arteries and shrinking tumors--into a 24-hour,
hypnosis-on-request unit. Virtually any patient, undergoing nearly any procedure, can receive hypnosis-induced pain relief
within minutes. ("We don't always use the 'H' word when we talk to patients," Faintuch confesses, "because
they think of people on TV who do silly things. So we say relaxation exercises.")
In 2000, Lang published a groundbreaking study on surgical hypnosis that many physicians credit with helping
to legitimize the technique's role in the operating room. The study traced the outcomes of 241 patients randomly assigned
to receive hypnosis, standard anesthesia, or sympathetic (but non-hypnotic) care while undergoing minor
surgery. Lang and her colleagues found that patients who were guided through hypnotic relaxation during surgery used 50% less
pain and anti-anxiety medication, suffered 75% fewer complications, and left the operating room 17 minutes sooner than the
other groups. In a follow-up study, Lang found that hypnosis is a cost saver, too--halving the $638 sedation costs of minor
surgery. Lang suspects that hypnosis helps patients tolerate operations by stabilizing heart rate and blood pressure. She's
looking to see if it can substitute for sedation in women undergoing needle biopsies for suspected breast cancer, women having
uterine fibroid surgery, and patients receiving chemotherapy for malignant liver tumors. The studies, funded by the federal
government, are not yet complete, but Lang says the preliminary results are encouraging.
Elsewhere, doctors have recorded great success using hypnosis on patients undergoing complicated, high-risk surgery.
At Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, doctors use hypnosis to reduce pain and nausea among epilepsy patients who have electrodes
placed inside their skulls to detect the source of their seizures. At the University of California Davis Medical Center, doctors
didn't even need to formally hypnotize spinal surgery patients in order to limit their blood loss during the operation. They
simply told 41 patients that blood would flow away from their backs during spine surgery. These patients lost roughly 650
cc of blood on the operating table; others on standard sedation lost nearly twice that.
Relieving Cancer Symptoms..
David Spiegel, MD, a psychiatry professor at Stanford University and a leading researcher on medical hypnosis, has found
that the approach can help some patients with terminal cancer live longer and more comfortably. Spiegel studied 125 women
with metastatic breast cancer. Those who learned self-hypnosis techniques had 50% less pain than women receiving standard
care--and lived, on average, 1 1/2 years longer. Part of the reason may be that the nausea, anxiety, and all-around lousy
feelings induced by chemotherapy can be alleviated by hypnosis, several studies have shown. Boris Lavanovich, 51, a real estate
consultant in Ludlow, VT, used hypnosis to cope with an experimental chemotherapy regimen he took to treat chronic lymphocytic
leukemia, a lethal blood cancer. "They told me I was stage 4, out the door," Lavanovich says with a dry chuckle.
The mountain biker and skier needed medication to counteract nausea, convulsive shakes, and rapid temperature swings brought
on by chemotherapy. Without the self-hypnosis training, Lavanovich doubts he could've tolerated the treatment or that he would
Lavanovich's experience is one hypnotherapists see time and again: A patient has only to try the technique to become
a believer. That's what happened with Wendy, the skeptical nurse who used the therapy to conceive her first son. She had a
second without incident, but when she and her husband decided to try for number three, once again her periods vanished. This
time she didn't hesitate: She turned to hypnosis, imagining the waterfall and soft breeze that got her body back on track
the first time around. It worked--she's now the mother of four sons.
Taken from an article by:
DR. ROBERTA TEMES MEDICAL RESEARCH.
Hypnosis is the original mind/body medicine and every year many clinical trials are conducted to prove the usefulness
of hypnosis in specific situations. Here are some recent outcomes:
Would you take a pill that promised to speed you through surgery? Would you take a pill that's been tested on hundreds
of surgical patients and all but one of them maintained stable vital signs during their operation - no sudden high blood pressure
- and all needed far less pain medication than patients who did not take the pill-much reduced pain after surgery, and there's
more. The surgeons were able to complete the operation quicker in the patients who had the pill. I suspect if there were such
a pill every HMO would insist upon it. After all, they'd save money on medications and on time spent in the operating room.
The 'pill' that's been proved to have this effect is hypnosis!
In the April 29, 2000 edition of the scholarly medical journal, the Lancet, Dr. Elvira Lang of Harvard University published
her study of clinical trials using hypnosis before surgery. People who had been hypnotized prior to surgery needed less pain
medication, left the operating room sooner, and had more stable vital signs during their operation.
Prior to surgery twenty-six children were hypnotized and twenty-six others, who were the same age and having the same
surgery, were not hypnotized. The hypnosis group was taught self-hypnosis (guided imagery) and given the hypnotic suggestion
that they would recover easily and quickly. After all the children were recovered it was determined that those who had been
hypnotized had less pain, needed fewer pain killers, and went home days earlier than those in the non-hypnosis group. Also,
those in the hypnosis group were calm, while those in the other group were anxious, even after the surgery. This study was
done by Sally Lambert at the Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.
Before having dental surgery patients listened to a 20-minute hypnosis audiotape. The tape put them into a hypnotic
state and then told them that during the procedure they would be able to control bleeding from their gums, they would heal
rapidly, and would easily cope with pain. Patients were told to listen to their tape every day for one week prior to the surgery.
The dental surgeon performed similar operations on patients who listened to the tape and patients who were not given a tape.
The dentist did not know which patients had tapes and which did not. After the surgery it was determined that patients who
had been hypnotically prepared experienced less anxiety, and needed much less pain medication. This study proves that a properly
designed audiotape can be an effective intervention. This study was conducted by Bjorn Enqviast, DDS, in Stockholm, Sweden.
Patients who were healthy, but had a broken bone in their foot, were recruited from an orthopedic emergency room. They
all received regular orthopedic care, but half of them were given hypnosis, too. The hypnosis consisted of individual sessions
and a hypnosis audio tape to be played at home. After 9 weeks, x-rays and clinical assessments of the foot showed that the
patients who were hypnotized were healing faster. The hypnotized patients had improved ankle mobility, an easier time walking
down stairs, and had a decreased need for painkillers. Hypnosis can be used to enhance fracture healing. This study is from:
C.S.Ginandes Dept. of Psychiatry Harvard Medical School Cambridge, MA
Patients with migraine headaches had a group hypnosis session and then were given pre-recorded
self-hypnosis tapes to take home. On the self-hypnosis tapes they were given imagery of wearing a helmet that was very cold
because it had freezer coils inside it. They were also taught how to relax themselves using hypnosis. Before joining this
research study all the patients agreed to keep written records for three months. During those three months they listed every
migraine they had and how long it lasted, how severe it was, and how much medication they needed. For three months the patients
listened to their hypnosis tapes, which put them into a hypnotic state. At the end of three months the data from the first
three months was compared to the data of the three months during which they used self-hypnosis.
* During those last three months:
The headaches occurred less often
When the headaches did appear they went away quicker
* The headaches were less severe
* Medication use was cut in half
Hypnosis is an effective treatment for migraine headaches.
A study of children with trichotillomania appeared
in the medical journal, Acta Paediatrica, 88 (4) pp. 407-410. Children who were hypnotized to stop pulling their hair remained
able to refrain from doing so for 16 months, after just a few hypnotic sessions. The authors, H. Cohen, A. Barzilal, and E.
Lahat at the Pediatric Ambulatory Center, in Petach Tikva, Israel, suggest that doctors consider hypnosis and not medication
as the primary treatment for compulsive hair pulling.
Dr. Whorwell, University Hospital of South Manchester, in the United Kingdom. Research was done
to determine the effectiveness of hypnosis in treating trichotillomania, compulsive hair pulling, in children. The children
were hypnotized and then taught self-hypnosis so they could re-hypnotize themselves at home on a daily basis. The children
who had trichotillomania without depression recovered well. Those who had depression were only partially successful. This
study was done by Dr. Daniel Kohen, University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
Patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, (IBS), were treated with hypnosis.
Eighty two percent of the patients improved. Patients were less anxious, had less abdominal pain, less bloating, less constipation
and less gas. Even those patients who were not very hypnotizable had good results. Hypnosis is an effective treatment for
irritable bowel syndrome. For more information, please contact: Dr. Edward Blanchard Center for Stress and Anxiety Disorders1535
Western Avenue Albany, NY 12203.
patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, (IBS), were asked to fill out questionnaires about their symptoms. Half
of the patients were hypnotized and half were not. After a few months new questionnaires determined that the patients who
had been hypnotized had less abdominal pain, less bloating, less nausea, less gas pain, and fewer backaches. Additionally,
the hypnotized patients said they felt more in control of their lives and did not call in sick as often as they did before
having the hypnosis. Also, they did not need to visit their doctors as often as they did before the hypnosis. The patients
in the study who did not receive hypnosis did not show these improvements. This study proves that hypnosis not only relieves
symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, but also improves quality of life for those patients. This study was conducted by Dr.
Whorwell, University Hospital of South Manchester, in the United Kingdom.
Pregnant women who begin to go into labor long before their ninth month are said to have
pre-term labor. Patients who had pre-term labor were hypnotized and given suggestions to keep their cervix firm and hard to
hold the baby in the uterus. Hypnosis was continued until the contractions stopped. Patients were seen for hypnosis two or
three times each day and then given audiotapes to play several times a day. Seventy percent of the hypnotized patients were
able to prolong their pregnancies. Only twenty percent of the women who were not hypnotized were able to prolong their pregnancies.
Hypnosis can help prevent premature births. Dr. Donald Brown, Nova Scotia, Canada, can be reached at: Dcbrown@is.dal.ca
Hypnosis has been
used to help bereaved people get through mourning. In this article a widow is treated with hypnosis. Hypnotic relaxation is
recommended for the first stages of grief, then supportive suggestions, and finally a new way to look at her relationship
with her husband is recommended. All the above is done with the aid of hypnosis, and then the patient is hypnotized to strengthen
her ego and look toward the future. Hypnosis is an effective tool in bereavement counseling. Dr. Gary Elkins is the author
of this paper. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Severely burned patients were hypnotized to feel less pain, in addition to
receiving their regular dosages of morphine
and other pain medications. The patients who most benefited from hypnosis were those who were in the most pain. Hypnosis worked
best when it was administered by the hypnotist and didn’t work as well when the patient was told to rely on self-hypnosis.
Hypnosis is an effective adjunct to treatment in burn patients. This study was done by Dr. David Patterson at the University
of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington.
Patients suffering from psoriasis were hypnotized and some patients had quite an improvement.
The patients who improved were those who were very hypnotizable. Those who were moderately hypnotizable did not improve. Hypnosis
may be useful with psoriasis patients who are very hypnotizable. For more information, please contact: Dr. Francisco Tausk
Department of Dermatology Johns Hopkins School of Medicine 601 N. Caroline Street, Baltimore, MD 21287.
Use ‘Integrative Medicine’
studies now show that integrative medicine works very well. By that I mean the practice of medicine that reaffirms the importance
of the relationship between practitioner and patient, and has a broader scope that includes therapies from conventional bio-scientific
medicine, as well as newer complementary approaches like acupuncture and chiropractic. For example, a study conducted at
Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York found that when women participated in a hypnosis session before breast surgery, they required less
pain medication and experienced less nausea and emotional upset than the control group. Patients in the hypnosis group also
cost the hospital $772 less overall. That’s an example of how a simple technique can help patients and reduce costs.”
Woodson Merrell, M.D., chairman, department of integrative
medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center, New York.
THE HEALING POWER OF HYPNOSIS:
Hypnosis: Hocus pocus it's not.
By Jean Callahan
- Edited and reprinted from
HEALTH August 19, 1997, pages 27-30.
For starters, how about surgery without anesthesia?
There was nothing remarkable about Victor Rausch's gallbladder operation. Nothing at all except that he underwent the
surgery without so much as swallowing an aspirin. Rausch, then a young dentist from Waterloo, Ontario, wanted to see if he
could skip the anesthetic and rely on hypnosis to keep him relaxed and free of pain while his gallbladder was removed.
AS THE SURGEON sliced
into his abdomen, Rausch entered into a hypnotic trance, focusing on Chopin's lush Nocturne in E-flat as it was played in
the film The Eddy Duchin Story. He visualized scenes in the movie, enlisting sight and sound to swaddle his mind in a virtual
reality infinitely more appealing than the one he was living at the moment. Throughout the 75 minute operation, Rausch maintained
steady blood pressure and pulse rate; he even talked and joked with the surgical team. And implausible as it may seem, he
swears he felt no pain--only a little tugging. After the surgery was over he stood up, walked down the hall and rode the elevator
to his hospital room.
SOUND LIKE a medical parlor trick? Yes, surgery without anesthesia is a bit of a mind-bender. But the truth is, even
in its less startling applications, hypnosis still evokes the image of its sideshow past. Just murmur, You are getting sleepy,
very sleepy, and some people envision one of those 1950's mad-doc movies in which creepy old men hypnotize lovely young women
to do all sorts of things.
NEVERTHELESS, as researchers learn more about the mind-body connection, hypnosis is ever so quietly becoming part of
mainstream medicine. Doctors and therapists often use hypnosis to help people quit smoking, lose weight, manage stress, diminish
pain and overcome phobias-- some of the more typical uses of the method. Health maintenance organizations and major insurers
are generally willing to pay. In addition, patients are also being taught self-hypnosis to ward off asthma attacks and epileptic
seizures; hemophiliacs are using it to stop their own bleeding; and last summer, after reviewing the medical literature, the
National Institutes of Health concluded that the technique is effective for easing several kinds of discomfort, including
headaches and pain associated with cancer. It's easy to imagine the advantages. Once you become proficient at hypnotizing
yourself, you can do it anywhere and anytime. There are no side effects. And it doesn't cost a dime. Such control is a powerful
tonic for many patients, even when hypnosis is used as an adjunct to conventional remedies.
So how does this healing method work? How do you know if it will work for you? Except for lack of props, current techniques
aren't all that different from those of early practitioners. Whether through counting backwards from 100 or asking the patient
to concentrate on a peaceful setting, the goal is to relax the body while creating a state of mental awareness that makes
it easy to assimilate therapeutic suggestions. An addicted smoker might be told to imagine h/herself as a nonsmoker, going
through daily activities without a cigarette; a frustrated dieter might be encouraged to imagine h/herself thin and trim in
a new swimsuit, eating only foods that are healthy.
ACCORDING TO electronic tracings of brain waves of people undergoing hypnosis, there is a surge of theta waves, which
are associated with enhanced attention. That may explain why suggestions introduced during this state are particularly effective:
The mind has tuned out everything else and is focusing exclusively on the new idea.
OF COURSE, HELPING people kick bad habits is one thing; if they are not trained in self hypnosis, getting them to take
a surgical incision without anesthesia is quite another. However, Helen Crawford, a psychology professor at Virginia Polytechnic
Institute and State University in Blacksburg, says the sensation of pain is like any other mental process that can be controlled
to some degree. Indeed her tests of people experiencing hypnosis--she's been mapping brain waves and measuring cerebral blood
flow--have shown increased activity in the brain's frontal region, which is known to inhibit sensory information. Pain still
registers in other areas of the brain, but the hyped-up frontal cortex blocks its ascent into consciousness. Brain maps or
no, it's precisely this squishy, is-it-or-isn't-it proposition that keeps some people from taking hypnosis seriously. Think
hard and you, too, can learn to ignore excruciating pain. Or more troubling: If it continues to hurt, perhaps you're
not tough-minded enough. These suggestive statements are giving the wrong message to the brain and therefore produce more
P AIN. When the methods are properly used they work. Proponents insist, it doesn't really matter whether the pain no longer
occurs or the mind just shields you from it. Either way, you don't feel it!
Some people do feel it, however, because they are not as receptive as other individuals. Artists and writers often make
good subjects because they are comfortable with fantasy and learning new things, says Herbert Spiegel, a psychiatrist and
one of the foremost experts on the medical uses of hypnosis. Yet many practitioners believe motivation is as important as
innate capacity. Anyone can be conditioned to use hypnosis effectively, if they have normal intelligence.
PERHAPS TH AT'S why people in acute medical crises are particularly responsive to hypnotic suggestion. This is where
the miracles happen, says Marcia Greenleaf, assistant clinical professor of psychology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine
in New York. Over the years, Greenleaf has seen many patients in the cardiac intensive care unit with heart rates as high
as 190 beats per minute. With hypnosis, they are often able to stabilize their condition within minutes, without using medications.
Burn recovery can be another of those wondrous turnabouts, says Dabney Ewin, a clinical professor of surgery and psychiatry
at Tulane Medical School. His most startling case involved a 28-year-old factory worker whose leg had slipped into a vat of
molten aluminum heated to approximately 1,750 degrees F.
EWIN, THEN THE PLANT physician, hypnotized him almost immediately. He told him that his leg
felt "cool and comfortable," and the man said that indeed that was how it felt. What's more, after additional
treatment in the emergency room, the burned skin healed much faster and better than physicians had anticipated, without infection
and without forming any scar tissue. The desire for long-term results also can serve as motivation, and experts say that with
training and practice almost anyone can use hypnosis for simple healing purposes. In a study sponsored by the government's
Office of Alternative Medicine, Crawford taught 17 people to use the technique to ease backache. In the laboratory, subjects
reduced pain sensation by more than 80 percent. At home they felt significantly less depressed and were able to sleep better
For Robert Jackson,
a retired jet engine mechanic in Ft. Worth, Texas, hypnosis ended two years of torturous pain. As a consequence of radiation
treatments he had undergone in 1993, Jackson's esophagus was so badly scarred that eating had become almost unbearable. He
ended up on a feeding tube, which left him feeling hungry all the time.
HE WAS CURIOUS ABOUT HYPNOTHER APY, but the first physician he approached scoffed at
the idea. Eventually Jackson wound up at the Center for Pain Management in Fort Worth. There, he says a doctor showed him
the ropes. I learned to put my mind someplace else, he says, so the pain, though still real, wouldn't dominate his experience.
It took a while, but he is now so adept at hypnotizing himself that he goes into a trance almost instantly. “I
have three children, and I'm relatively a young man at 50”, he says. "But two years ago all I could do
is sit around and cry. I still have pain, and I still take drugs every once and a while, but my suffering is greatly reduced.
Best of all, I can actually eat real food now. Sometimes, I even feel full.”
Hypnotherapy in hospitals.
By LIM WEY WEN.
April 25, 2010
hospitals increasingly acknowledge the therapeutic value of hypnotherapy, hypnotherapists are now looking toward putting their
work under scientific scrutiny. CLINICAL hypnosis, or hypnotherapy, may still be a new buzzword to many doctors here in Malaysia,
but it is no stranger to Harvard Medical School associate professor of psychiatry Dr David C Henderson. “While doing
hypnosis is not a big part of what we do (in the Massachusetts General Hospital, the teaching hospital of the Harvard
Medical School), it is a component,” he says in an interview during a lecture visit to Kuala Lumpur recently.
Not asleep: When a willing person is guided into
a hypnotic trance (a state of deep relaxation where she is relaxed and focused at the same time) the hypnotherapist can access
her subconscious mind and give positive suggestions to help her change her behavior or emotional response to one that is conducive
to health and well being. “For decades, we’ve used it in pain management in acute inpatient care. For instance,
in the program we have in the burns unit, it is a component in pain management.”
Dr Henderson’s “acquaintance” with hypnotherapy started when he was still
in medical school. “When I was a resident, I trained in psychiatry in the late 80s and early 90s. It was something
I was taught how to do,” he says. When he practiced, hypnosis had helped him ease his patient’s pain. “I
remember I had some patients who has been hospitalized for sickle cell anemia, and one of the things I did was hypnosis, to
help them deal with the pain when they were in acute crisis,” he recalled.
However, as there is little evidence to support the efficacy of hypnotherapy in its other
roles (such as smoking cessation, weight management, and overcoming phobia), even after it has been taught in medical schools
and used for decades in US hospitals such as the MGH, the role of hypnotherapy is often limited to pain management and relief
of mild psychological conditions such as depression. “I would say that hypnotherapy needs to really catch up with
other therapies ... it needs science to help us understand what it does,” says Dr Henderson.
To date, even hypnotherapists do not know exactly how it
works. They have a rough idea: when a willing person is guided into a hypnotic trance (a state of deep relaxation where he
is relaxed and focused at the same time), the hypnotherapist can access his subconscious mind and give positive suggestions
to help him change his behavior or emotional responses to one that is conducive to health and well-being. So, whether it is
coaxing a subconscious mind into reducing its perception of pain, or doing away with the irrational compulsion to shrink into
a quivering ball at the sight of a spider, what hypnotherapy does is basically to equip a person, mentally, to overcome those
physical and psychological challenges.
As the director of studies of the London College of Clinical Hypnosis (LCCH) Peter Mabbutt notes, “It
is important to note that we don’t work with physical symptoms (like pain). We work with the psychological response
to the symptom.” In the United Kingdom, says Mabbutt, hypnotherapists are working in a variety of areas in palliative
care. They are also looking at working with people with heart disease patients within the cardiovascular care unit. “We
are helping them manage the emotional response they are having to their particular condition, and also the fact that they
could be coming to the end of their lives.”
Beyond that, the possibilities are exciting. People with conditions that are linked to, or exacerbated by
stress – like irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, or psoriasis, may benefit from hypnotherapy as it can help them relax.
Taking patients who have anxiety due to breathlessness
as an example, Mabbutt says that they may benefit if hypnotherapy can help them change their response to the symptom. “By
helping them change their response (from an anxious one to a relaxed one), we help them reduce their anxiety, and
that helps them manage their breathing cycle more appropriately,” he explains.
Even skin disorders, like warts, appear to succumb
to hypnotherapy. “There is good evidence that hypnotherapy is very good at clearing warts. But we don’t know
how it works,” says Mabbutt. “(In hypnotherapy), you just visualise your wart and imagine it withering
away. And it does.” It does sound implausible, but Mabbutt attributes the phenomenon to the belief system that
we all have in us. “I think when people have a strong belief system (that the wart will fall off), the
wart does fall off. So, we know that we are doing something that involves belief systems, but we don’t know the exact
mechanisms on how it works yet.”
But with hypnotherapy finding its way to more and more clinical settings and medical
schools, Mabbutt hopes this will change. “In Malaysia, we are doing some studies on pain control, and we are in
the plan of carrying out a huge study in looking at the efficacy of hypnosis in smoking cessation,” says Mabbutt.
"Studies to look at the use of hypnotherapy in other conditions, like cystic fibrosis, are also under way.”
The effectiveness of the therapy is not the only
area hypnotherapists are interested in. As hypnotherapy does not work for everyone, hypnotherapists would also need to find
out which are the best candidates who would benefit most from the therapy. “We’ve got to work out who it works
for and why it works. And we’ve got to be open to other therapies that might work for somebody else,” says
Mabbutt. While properly conducted studies are planned
and just about to start, Mabbutt foresees a strong future for hypnotherapy. “By working together with the medical
community to quantify and research hypnotherapy, we want to work towards a situation where we fit in. We don’t want
to be esoteric,” Mabbutt explains.
(Note by Brian:- "Reading this last
entry above compared to other information on this site shows how woefully uninformed or underinformed many medical practioners
are regarding hypnosis. I have books by medical doctors going back to the 1890's, up until the present, who bemoan the
lack of use of hypnosis by their contemporaries in their field. There are dozens of studies, (a handful on this website),
showing the effectiveness of hypnotherapy. As for knowing how it works, apart from the fact that there are many
authoritative sources of many theories regarding various aspects of hypnotherapy, medicine does not demand this standard
of knowledge. From leeches to anti-depressants, drugs and procedures of uncertain functionality have been and are
in use. Most information regarding anti-depressants contain statements such as, "Is thought to work by the mechanism..
.. " The psychiatrist Peter Breggin, quoted on the prescription drug addiction page, highlights how little is known about
the functional mechanisms and long term effects of the current enormous quantities of psycho-active medicine that are being
prescribed, in his books)."