Is hypnotherapy useful in alleviating headaches or migraines?
11/15/2018 // Ellaine Castillo // Views

People are familiar with hypnosis, primary because of its portrayal in media. It usually goes that a hypnotist controls a person's actions with nothing more than a swing in their pocket watch. However, this is not what hypnotism is really about. In recent years, the practice has gained wider acceptance as an alternative treatment to conditions like stress and chronic pain. However, only a few studies prove its effectiveness against headaches, which are the most common manifestations of chronic pain. One study, conducted by a group of researchers from Iran, showed that hypnotherapy can be used to remedy tension and migraine headaches.

Hypnosis puts people in a state of hyper-awareness -- often mistaken zoning out -- through the use of visualization and verbal repetition. In this state, the patient is more likely to accept suggestions that they would typically ignore in their normal mental status. Because of this, hypnotherapy can be used to plant recommendations that can help in the healing process. Therapeutic applications of this practice include managing stress and chronic pain.

Headaches are a type of chronic pain that is widely prevalent since it affects anyone regardless of age. It is classified either as primary if it occurs on its own, or secondary if it is caused by trauma or an infection. Primary headaches can be further divided into those that are induced by tension or migraines. The main differences between these two types are that tension-induced headaches are bilateral and non-pulsating while migraines are unilateral, pulsating, and caused by sensitivity to lights and sounds or fatigue. These conditions affect the way a person lives since they are often associated with nausea, vomiting, and discomfort. Although conventional treatments for headaches exist, these have side effects like drug dependence and addiction that discourage people from taking them. Because of this, non-pharmacological methods like acupuncture, relaxation, yoga, and hypnotherapy are now being tapped as alternative treatment strategies.


In this study, which was published in Sleep and Hypnosis, the researchers conducted a randomized clinical trial to determine the effects of hypnotherapy on tension and migraine headaches. A total of 36 patients participated in the study, with 18 of them suffering from tension headaches and the others experiencing migraines. The researchers randomly assigned the participants to one of the following treatment groups: 1)  standard drug treatment, 2) standard drug and hypnotherapy, 3) hypnotherapy. Those who belonged to the second and third groups went on five 30-minute hypnotherapy sessions that were conducted in biweekly intervals.

The authors of the study determined the effects of the treatments based on pre- and post-treatment questionnaires accomplished by the participants. From there, the researchers observed that hypnotherapy effectively reduced the severity of headaches. This was exhibited by the changes in the percentage of patients suffering from severe and moderate headaches from 69.2 and 30.8 percent to 7.7 and 61.5 percent, respectively. Moreover, the participants also experienced fewer attacks and were able to work more. These results were also observed in participants from the first and second treatment groups.

Overall, these results prove that hypnotherapy can be used as an effective non-pharmacological approach to treating tension and migraine headaches. This practice, along with other natural treatments, allows the patient to go back to enjoying their life while minimizing the risks associated with harmful drugs. (Related: Relieve migraine pain by balancing hormones with a healthy diet and exercise.)

Conditions that can be treated with hypnosis

Hypnosis can be used alone or in combination with other treatments in order to treat diseases, which include the following:

  • Phobias
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disorders
  • Depression
  • Addiction
  • Hysteria
  • Eating Disorders

Learn more about hypnotherapy by visiting

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