Trouble with Headaches?

Migraine headache is a type of headache with signs and symptoms of sensitivity to light, smells, or sounds, eye pain, and sometimes nausea and vomiting. Triggers for migraine include foods, stress, and oversleeping.

Migraine imposes major personal and social costs upon individuals and society . In an Australian study on the cost of migraine, Parry (1993) found that 68,000 work days, 33,200 school/university days, and 167,300 days of reduced activity were lost to migraine and other headaches . That same study also revealed that, while migraine sufferers do not always seek medical help, there were some 566,000 reported visits to doctors, specialists, and hospital clinics for the complaint . An American study found that headache is one of the 10 most common complaints presented to physicians, accounting for more than 18 million outpatient visits per year (Osterhaus, Townsend, Gandek, & Ware, 1994) . In particular, migraines account for substantial morbidity and cost, resulting in an estimated 3 million bed days each month, and lost labour cost ranging from $6 .5 billion to $17 billion per annum . The pain, duration and frequency of migraine can be debilitating.

Studies show hypnosis can be effective in reducing chronic headaches

Given the considerable costs, both to the community in lost work, and to the individual in pain and personal and economic expense, finding appropriate treatments for migraine is of importance . Studies show hypnosis can be effective in treating frequent headaches:

  • One study investigated a psychological intervention involving a single group session and participation (using a pre-recorded audio tape) with self-hypnosis, relaxation, and vascular manipulation . The purpose of the study was to investigate the effect of an hypnotic intervention on the duration, frequency, and severity of migraines . It was expected that a successful treatment impacting positively on migraine duration, frequency, and severity may also result in a reduction in the amount of migraine medication required by subjects .
  • The final selection of 32 volunteers was made on the basis of specified selection criteria, and the signing of a participation consent form . The selection criteria included the requirements that participants be clinically diagnosed migraine sufferers, that they experience at least two migraines per month, and that they would not undergo any other drug-free migraine treatment in the course of this study.
  • The data shows that the hypnotic intervention resulted in reductions in the duration, frequency and severity of migraines . Post-treatment duration of migraine was significantly shorter than pre-treatment duration (t (24) = 5 .74, p < 0 .0005) . Post-treatment frequency of migraine was significantly lower than pre-treatment.

Australian Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis Vol . 27, No . 1, 1999, 54–61., AN HYPNOTIC INTERVENTION FOR MIGRAINE CONTROL, Gordon J. Emmerson Victoria University of Technology, Melbourne.

Another study notes evidence is that shows hypnosis has been an effective treatment for recurrent headaches in children. Two adolescents with continuing chronic daily headaches were taught self-hypnosis through careful attention to individual strengths and finding the hypnotic elements within the clinical encounters. Self-reports of intensity, frequency, and duration of headaches described substantial benefit from learning and practicing self-hypnosis after little to no benefit from pharmacologic and other nonpharmacologic therapies. These results and analogous success with several other adolescents with chronic daily headache support the further use of self-hypnosis training for this condition. As a self-regulation technique that is quickly and easily learned by most young people, self-hypnosis training holds considerable promise for effectively treating and perhaps preventing chronic daily headaches in children and adolescents.

Daniel P. Kohen (2011) Chronic Daily Headache: Helping Adolescents Help Themselves With Self-Hypnosis, American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 54:1, 32-46