Hypnosis Can Help Treat Chronic Low Back Pain

Researchers from NeuRA, UNSW Sydney, Universidade Cidade de São Paulo, Brazil and University of Washington, USA joined together to lead a randomised control trial of hypnosis as a treatment for low-back pain.

Chronic low back pain is a very common condition. In fact, four million Australians may be suffering from low back pain right now, and for around 40% of people that pain will persist and become chronic.

Researchers at NeuRA have been pioneering new treatments for chronic pain, especially opioid-free treatments, and have now set their sights on hypnosis.

Hypnosis is a state of human consciousness involving focused attention and reduced peripheral awareness coupled with an enhanced capacity to respond to suggestion. When used for pain treatment, hypnosis typically involves an “induction” during which the clinician invites patients to experience a state of focused awareness, followed by suggestions for changes in the sensory, cognitive and emotional domains of pain experience.

This trial combined hypnosis with pain education in patients with chronic low back pain. Traditional pain education typically uses an education course, such as Explain Pain, to coach patients to understand their pain. Pain education has been previously found to help patients recover from their low back pain.

The study found that the addition of hypnosis to general pain education reduced patient’s pain intensity and their “catastrophising” thoughts about their pain. The hypnosis enhanced the benefits provided by the pain education and generally improved the patients’ perceptions of their pain their disability, then those receiving pain education alone.

This study provides another treatment option for teaching patients to self-manage their chronic low back pain, that has a relatively low cost and can be offered in groups.

Read the full paper: Rizzo RRN, Medeiros FC, Pires LG, Pimenta RM, McAuley JH, Jensen MJ, Costa LOP. Hypnosis Enhances the Effects of Pain Education in Patients with Chronic Non-Specific Low Back Pain: a Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Pain 2018.


Article by: Rodrigo Rizzo, A/Prof James McAuley & Prof Leo Costa

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