Self-Hypnosis for Headaches
Republished with permission of Natural Standards Research Collaboration ©2007

Self-hypnosis training in children and adolescents may result in significant improvement of chronic headaches, a new study reports.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota investigated the effect of treatment with self-hypnosis for youth with recurrent headaches in a retrospective review. The review included the outpatient clinical records of 178 consecutive youth 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.

The study found that compared with self-reports before learning self-hypnosis, children and youth 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, reduction in intensity (on a self-rating scale of 0 to 12) from an average of 10.3 to 4.7 and reduction in average duration from 23.6 hours to 3.0 hours. No adverse side effects of self-hypnosis were reported.

The study authors concluded that training in self-hypnosis is associated with significant improvement of chronic recurrent headaches in children and adolescents.

The term hypnosis is derived from the Greek word hypnos, meaning sleep. The origin of modern Western hypnotherapy is often traced to the Austrian physician Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815). Mesmer believed that illness is caused by an imbalance of magnetic fluids in the body that can be corrected through "animal magnetism." He asserted that the hypnotist's own personal magnetism can be transferred to a patient. The term "mesmerize" is derived from Mesmer's name.

In the mid 20th Century, the British and American Medical Associations and the American Psychological Association endorsed hypnosis as a medical procedure. In 1995, the U.S. National Institutes of Health issued a consensus statement noting the scientific evidence in favor of the use of hypnosis for chronic pain, particularly pain associated with cancer.

Several studies report improvements in severity and frequency of tension headaches following several weekly hypnosis sessions. Early research suggests that hypnosis may be equivalent to other relaxation techniques, biofeedback or autogenic training.

Other integrative therapies with good scientific evidence in the treatment of headaches include 5-HTP, butterbur, chiropractic, spinal manipulative therapy, feverfew, guided imagery and peppermint oil.

1) Kohen DP, Zajac R. Self-hypnosis training for headaches in children and adolescents. J. Pediatr. 2007 Jun;150(6):635-9.

Other reference to this study:
Self-hypnosis benefits children and adolescents with chronic headaches by Patient Health International