Older people who suffer from pain are a common medical concern. Studies from the USA estimate that between 24 - 65% of older people in the community suffer from pain and 80% of institutionalised older people.
Living with pain decreases an older person’s quality of life, preventing them from sleeping, moving around and enjoying day to day activities. It can lead to depression and psychological disturbances. The most prevalent pain is caused by musculo-skeletal conditions such as arthritis and fractures.
Currently pain management in the elderly is provided by massage and physiotherapy or drugs such as paracetamol or NSAIDs.
In previous studies self-hypnosis has proven to reduce pain in long-term patients, but there is little evidence to support the benefits of hypnosis in patients of a very old age. Three past studies included 60-69 year olds, but none older or in a geriatric setting.
What Is Hypnosis?
It’s a trance like state whereby the receiver is open to suggestion and verbal stimuli. Hypnosis is usually done with help of a therapist who makes suggestions to focus the mind, but self hypnosis is attainable with practice.
Hypnosis been used to manage pain relief in cancer, fibromyalgia, burns patients and musculo-skeletal conditions.
What Happened in the Study?
The aim was to measure the effects of hypnosis on pain in older hospitalised patients.
It took place in a 300 bed geriatric hospital where patients were selected by the palliative care consultation team.
Criteria for inclusion were:
- Chronic pain for three months or more with impact of daily activities.
- Intensity higher than 4 on the numerical pain scale (1-10) despite medication
- Patients with deafness, patients in last days of life, those with psychosis, active skin disease or post traumatic stress disease were disallowed.
A massage group was also monitored as a comparison to the hypnosis group.
How Was Pain Measured?
Pain outcomes were measured after one week, two weeks, at discharge and at 12 weeks on a 0-10 pain scale.
Pain that interfered with everyday life was measured over the preceding 24hrs including mood, normal work activities such as household tasks, relationships, sleep, walking ability and enjoyment of life.
Three 30 minutes sessions a week were carried out by a trained physician. During sessions patients were encouraged to learn techniques so they had control over pain at a later date.
Pain levels were reduced in hypnosis patients in the hospitalised setting but there was no difference in pain intensity and mood between the massage and hypnosis groups at 12 weeks post discharge. Researchers believe this is because patients did not continue with self-hypnosis.
In the future
Researchers suggest that self-hypnosis be part of hospital discharge interventions in older people to aid with pain management, and that health providers be made aware of its benefits and trained in techniques.
If hypnosis can help manage pain in older people this is an exciting way forward. Currently older people are at risk of side effects and drug interactions when controlling pain levels. The study highlighted no side effects from hypnosis, making it a safe and natural method that improves the quality of life in older people.
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♦ WHAT IS HYPNOTHERAPY?
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