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Hypnosis for Multiple Sclerosis

hypnosis for multiple sclerosis

Several studies have shown that hypnosis can help relieve pain associated with multiple sclerosis. If you are not satisfied with your current pain relief program or you want to try a natural approach that eliminates the risk of side effects from drugs, then hypnosis training may be for you.


Acute and chronic pain affect about half of all people who live with multiple sclerosis. Its impact on quality of life can be enormous, ranging from sleep problems to depression and an inability to perform everyday tasks.

Hypnosis has been evaluated for a number of health challenges, including addictions, insomnia, depression, weight problems, and chronic pain. Numerous studies have been conducted regarding pain relief, but few have addressed this issue in people with multiple sclerosis.

That does not mean, however, that individuals with multiple sclerosis have not had success using this nondrug approach. In fact, the findings of a new study suggest that hypnosis may not be getting the recognition it deserves, as the report noted that “The treatments that were reported by patients to provide the greatest pain relief, such as hypnosis, nerve blocks, and marijuana, were not those that were the most frequently used.”

Hypnosis and multiple sclerosis
That said, there are several studies that have highlighted the benefits of this treatment approach. In one study, 15 adults with multiple sclerosis and chronic pain participated in 16 sessions that included the following at four sessions each:

  • Self-hypnosis training
  • Cognitive restructuring (a technique that helps replace negative thinking patterns with constructive ones)
  • A combination of self-hypnosis and cognitive restructuring
  • Education control intervention

Overall, self-hypnosis was better than cognitive restructuring in relieving pain intensity. However, the results achieved using a combination of self-hypnosis and cognitive structuring were superior to using either approach alone.

Another study compared self-hypnosis with progressive muscle relaxation in 22 patients (age range, 27-75) with MS and chronic pain. Fifteen patients received self-hypnosis training and the remaining seven learned progressive muscle relaxation.

The hypnosis participants attended ten hypnosis sessions and were also encouraged to practice self-hypnosis at home using audio recordings of their sessions and hypnotic cues learned during their training. At-home practice was recommended for at least once daily.

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Those in the progressive muscle relaxation group also attended ten sessions. They, too, were encouraged to practice what they learned at least once a day at home.

The findings were as follows:

  • Those in the self-hypnosis group reported greater reductions in pain and pain interference than did those in the relaxation group
  • Benefits in the self-hypnosis group continued at the three-month follow-up
  • Individuals in both groups said they continued to practice what they learned and that they continued to experience pain relief when they did so

Hypnosis and non-MS studies
When you consider studies that have explored the use of hypnosis for chronic pain in general (and not in MS patients specifically), the results are also encouraging. A recent review in American Psychologist, for example, reported on clinical trial findings showing that hypnosis is effective for relieving chronic pain as well as having a positive impact on brain and spinal cord functioning.

Since multiple sclerosis patients often experience neuropathic pain, studies that address this problem specifically are of interest. One example is a report published in Pain Medicine that included 36 individuals with HIV and neuropathic pain.

All 36 individuals were monitored for pain seven weeks prior to the three weekly sessions of hypnosis training and for seven weeks after training. Pain scores improved in 26 (72%) of the patients, and the mean pain reduction was 44%. Individuals also showed positive changes in quality of life and affect.

One of the advantages of self-hypnosis is that once it is learned, you can do it anywhere, anytime. Adding this skill to your treatment options could help improve your quality of life.

Also read about alternative treatments for multiple sclerosis

Dorfman D et al. Hypnosis for treatment of HIV neuropathic pain: a preliminary report. Pain Medicine 2013 Jul; 14(7): 1048-56
Ehde DM et al. Utilization and patients’ perceptions of the effectiveness of pain treatments in multiple sclerosis: A cross-sectional survey. Disability Health Journal 2015 Mar 14
Jensen MP, Patterson DR. Hypnotic approaches for chronic pain management: clinical implications of recent research findings. The American Psychologist 2014 Feb-Mar; 69(2): 167-77
Jensen MP et al. Effects of self-hypnosis training and cognitive restructuring on daily pain intensity and catastrophizing in individuals with multiple sclerosis and chronic pain. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis 2011 Jan; 59(1): 45-63
Jensen MP et al. A comparison of self-hypnosis versus progressive muscle relaxation in patients with multiple sclerosis and chronic pain. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis 2009; 57(2): 198-221