A migraine is a debilitating form of a headache. Many people suffer from migraines. Various triggers can produce the onset of a migraine. However, reducing the likelihood of a migraine occurring and getting rid of one once it occurs, can be challenging. Studies have been conducted showing that hypnotherapy can be quite beneficial to the migraine sufferer. In many studies, hypnosis has been shown to be more beneficial than medications.
Common triggers of migraines include hormonal changes, stress, food, changes in sleep patterns, medications, and changes in the surrounding environment. Symptoms of migraines vary from person to person, but many people report moderate to severe pain that pulsates, worsens with physical activity and interferes with day-to-day activity, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and/or sound, and sometimes experiencing auras. A migraine can last for 4 to 72 hours, but frequency varies greatly.
One study compared the effect of hypnotherapy versus the prescription medication prochlorperazine (Stemetil). The study consisted of 47 participants who reported feedback every month for a year. They reported number of attacks per month, severity of attacks, and complete remission. Results of the study showed that those who received hypnotherapy reported far fewer migraine attacks compared to those who received medication. Out of 23 participants who received hypnotherapy, 10 of them ceased to experience migraines. Out of the 24 participants who used medication, 3 of them ceased to experience migraines.
Another study reported the benefits of behavioral therapy. These approaches include relaxation, biofeedback, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and hypnosis. Hypnosis can help migraine sufferers avoid triggers such as controlling stress and avoiding certain foods.
Two hypnotherapy techniques used in treating migraines include the hand warming and glove anesthesia. These techniques put migraine sufferers in control of their pain by helping them transfer warmth or numbness to their head where their head hurts. These techniques were shown to be more beneficial than simple relaxation exercises. This study concluded that medication is ineffective in treating chronic migraines and supports psychological treatment because there are no side effects.
These studies show that hypnotherapy and natural methods of treating migraine headaches are more effective than using medication. The fact that hypnosis has no side effects and many prescription medications have many side effects makes hypnotherapy a more natural and safe approach to treating migraines. In addition to no side effects, many studies have shown that the effects of hypnosis are more lasting and beneficial compared to the use of medication.
Anderson, J.A., Basker, M.A., & Dalton, R. (1975). Migraine and hypnotherapy. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 23(1), 48-58.
Heap, M. (1988). Hypnosis: current clinical, experimental and forensic practices. Taylor & Francis.
Sandor, P.S. & Afra, J. (2007). Nonpharmacologic treatment of migraine. Current Pain and Headache Reports, 9(3), 202-205.
Dr. Dave Hill, DCH
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