Guided ImageryHypnosisPainRheumatoid Diseases

Hypnotherapy to treat rheumatoid arthritis

 Mental imagery and hypnotherapy helped alleviate pain in this study (page 55) by researchers at Bangor University in the UK presented during The British Psychological Society’s Division of Health Psychology Annual Conference.

First, the details.

  • 42 patients were randomly assigned to a treatment group.
    • Visualization
    • Hypnosis
    • No treatment
  • They were asked to visualize their pain in different ways and try to manage it.
  • For example, visualize pain as a person, and thank that person for letting you know something is not right.
  • They then asked the person to leave, visualizing that image going further away, until it was hardly visible and eventually disappearing, leaving the patient free of pain.
  • Measures of pain, fatigue, and functional disability were taken at the start of the study, end of the study, and 6 months later.

And, the results.

  • Imagery and hypnotherapy groups reported a significant decrease in pain and fatigue over time.
  • Imagery and hypnotherapy groups reported a statistically significant decrease in functional disability — changes that resulted in meaningful improvements in the patients’ lives.

The bottom line?
The authors concluded, “Imagery and hypnotherapy were effective at reducing the most commonly reported problems of living with rheumatoid arthritis.”

An earlier review of 13 studies of hypnotherapy in patients with chronic pain concluded that “hypnosis consistently produced significant decreases in pain due to a variety of chronic-pain problems. And, hypnosis was generally more effective than nonhypnotic interventions such as attention, physical therapy, and education.”

The contribution of this study to our knowledge is that the results of hypnosis and visualization persisted for 6 months after the study, something that had not been studied in earlier research.

9/14/08 10:26 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.