Following a clinical hypnotherapy trial at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester, England, researchers say that hypnotherapy can help patients who experience non-cardiac chest pain. The researchers separated 28 patients into two groups. The patients within each group had experienced regular non-cardiac chest pain caused by problems such as gastric reflux, which is similar to heartburn. The first group received 12 sessions of hypnotherapy over a period of 17 weeks. The other group received placebo therapy with general patient support over the same period.
80% of the patients receiving hypnotherapy claimed they achieved significant pain relief compared to only 1 in 13 of the placebo control group. The researchers also claimed that the hypnotherapy sessions added to the patient’s sense of well-being and reduced their need for painkillers during the research period.
Past research into pain control using hypnosis as a means of controlling the way the brain processes sensory information has indicated that a patient’s emotional response to pain can be influenced with hypnosis. This has been confirmed within the field of neuroscience using brain scans to identify which parts of the brain are affected by hypnosis and the experience of pain.
It has also been suggested that hypnosis can be effective in reducing the amount of acid produced by the stomach. This too would account for the reduction in pain in the sample group receiving hypnotherapy. Gastric reflux causes stomach acid to enter the oesophagus, sometimes through a faulty valve in the oesophagus, and as the skin in the oesophagus is more sensitive, it is damaged by the acid and so causes chest pain. In some cases, prolonged reflux can cause scar tissue – a problem known as Barretts Oesophagus, which can become cancerous.
So there are two important points that should be highlighted in this research. Firstly that hypnotherapy has again been proven to be successful with pain relief, in this instance non-cardiac chest pain. And secondly, and maybe more importantly, that hypnotherapy can be used to reduce the amount of stomach acid that causes gastric reflux.
The BHRTS insists that trainee hypnotherapists keep up to date with new developments in medicine, and as a minimum, have a good understanding of anatomy and basic medical practice. It should also be remembered that pain is a message. It is a warning to ‘take care’ of the body. So pain should not be removed altogether except in cases of surgery or terminal illness. In most cases, pain reduction is more appropriate, until the cause of the symptom has been resolved.
There is always a mind-body connection with any problem that is presented in psychotherapy. Even if the symptoms appear to be physical, the patient will always have a psychological perception of the physical symptom, and this perception will affect how the symptom develops or heals. Likewise if a patient presents what appears to be a psychological problem, they will also have a physical response to that psychological problem. In some cases the physiological response may be simply anxiety or stress, in other cases, it may be something more serious.
Hypnotherapists should keep in mind, that in addition to treating the presenting problem, good therapy also takes into consideration the patient’s psychological and physical response to their problem. These are essential basic skills for every trainee hypnotherapist that the institute instils in each of its students.