Treating Headaches in Children with Hypnosis

Self-hypnosis training is an effective treatment for chronic recurrent headaches in children and adolescents, new research points out.

Advantages of self-hypnosis over pharmacotherapy in treating headaches include lower cost and the absence of side effects, according to the report in The Journal of Pediatrics for June, 2007. A number of studies have shown self-hypnosis to be a useful treatment for headaches in pediatric populations, but most have included small patient numbers.

In the present retrospective study, Dr. Daniel P. Kohen, from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and Dr. Robert Zajac, from Glencoe Regional Health Services, also in Minnesota, assessed the outcomes of 178 consecutive youths who were taught self-hypnosis to manage their headaches. At baseline, the mean subject age was 11 years old. Data from 81 girls and 63 boys were available for analysis.

The subjects were trained in self-hypnosis within 3 to 4 visits. In addition to being taught how to induce and intensify the hypnotic state, the subjects were given a choice of therapeutic hypnotic suggestions, such as “when you have a headache, let yourself imagine you are somewhere where you never have a headache, and go there.” The subjects were instructed to practice self-hypnosis at home 2 to 3 times per day.

Headache severity, frequency, and duration were assessed before, during, and after learning self-hypnosis, the report indicates.

Self-hypnosis training was associated with a drop in headache frequency from 4.5 to 1.4 per week, a fall in average intensity (12-point scale) from 10.3 to 4.7, and reduction in average duration from 23.6 to 3.0 hours (p < 0.01 for all). No side effects were seen with the intervention. Headache intensity was reduced more in children and adolescents who receive a self-hypnosis audiotape to facilitate training vs those who did not.

“Many families today are increasingly interested in complementary or alternative therapies not only for adults but also for their children,” the authors point out. “With appropriate scientific inquiry we are beginning to add validity to the mind-body connection in mainstream pediatric healthcare.”

Still, the researchers acknowledge that “prospective study and long-term follow-up of patients learning self-hypnosis for headaches or other ailments is clearly needed.”

source:J Pediatr. 2007;150:635-639.

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Dr. Gnap

Dr. Gnap is a family practice physician and behavioral medicine specialist in suburban Chicago.  Dr. Gnap developed the Inner Control™ Program in 1970 and has worked with thousands of people to improve and correct medical, emotional, behavioral and learning problems including performance.  He started the Inner Control program because so many patients asked, “what more can be done along with traditional treatment methods?”

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