Hypnotherapy reduces pain & anxiety of bone marrow biopsy

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child preparing for bone marrow biopsy

Is a bone marrow biopsy painful?

Bone marrow biopsies have been in existence since the early nineteenth century and remain a vital step in the diagnosis of a wide range of blood-related disorders and illnesses. The procedure has proved essential in ensuring that patients are correctly diagnosed, and also to allow appropriate treatment plans to be put into place successfully.

The biopsy itself can, however, be extremely painful. A significant number of patients having to undergo a bone marrow biopsy feel that the procedure is, at best, extremely uncomfortable. They often describe it as extremely painful and even unbearable in many cases.

Since its origin, the method of completing a bone marrow biopsy has remained almost completely unchanged. Even though there have been many breakthroughs in modern medicine, no real research has gone into looking at ways to reduce the pain and discomfort caused by this particular operation.

Medical staff are looking for ways to reduce pain.

As medicine becomes more patient-centred, medical practitioners are increasingly looking at reducing levels of pain and finding ways to make procedures more bearable for patients. Until recently though, very little specific research had been completed into ways in which the experience of a bone marrow biopsy could be improved for sufferers. As a result of this, medics are unsure about the success of the various methods they could employ in order to make such a vital procedure more tolerable.

CBT and Hypnotherapy for Bone Marrow Biopsy

More recent research has examined the ways that alternative therapies might improve the experience of a bone marrow biopsy. It was thought that both hypnotherapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) might help to alleviate the suffering of patients requiring such procedures.

One study looked at the effect of hypnotherapy and CBT in children undergoing such biopsies. It was found that, compared to the control, children being treated with hypnotherapy and CBT experienced significantly reduced levels of pain and discomfort across the board.

Although both methods were successful in lowering pain levels, when they were looked at separately there was less evidence of behavioural distress in those having hypnotherapy. The hypnotherapy patients were also less anxious than those having CBT. It was also found that hypnotherapy worked well with reducing levels of stress and pain in young patients needing other distressing procedures, such as lumbar punctures and pain after surgery.

Studies completed with adult patients also demonstrated that hypnotherapy can be effective in reducing anxiety levels during such procedures. The hypnotherapy was far less effective in reducing the level of physical pain during the procedure however, probably due to the fact that adults are generally less open to suggestion than children.

Music therapy, TENS and acupressure may also help

A range of other alternative therapies has been looked at in relation to alleviating the pain and anxiety associated with a bone marrow biopsy, such as music therapy and the use of nature screens and sounds. It was felt that music therapy brought lower levels of mental and physical pain during the procedure, while the use of nature sounds lowered anxiety levels alone. These therapies seemed to be successful because they managed to partially distract patients from procedures.

Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) was also considered, and this method was found to be popular with patients for providing additional pain relief when used in addition to the standard pain relievers. The figures from the study showed no actual benefit in terms of the numerical scale of pain, so further research would be required to prove any physical benefit to the patient during the biopsy.

Another drug-free therapy which was explored was magnetic acupressure. Again, this was found to be successful in terms of patient opinion, as many reported that they felt it had reduced their pain levels, however the numerical levels recorded on the pain scale were not seen to decrease.  It was felt that further studies would be required to ascertain whether or not acupressure might be a worthwhile therapy to employ, as it is inexpensive and appeared at least to have had some kind of effect on reducing pain levels.

On the whole, there is a strong likelihood that a range of alternative therapies could have a significant effect on the anxiety and pain levels of patients undergoing procedures like bone marrow biopsy. Further, more in depth research would be required to ascertain which therapies were most successful.

More articles on hypnotherapy for anxiety and pain:

Hypnosis can reduce pain in hospitalized older patients


Hypnosis better than sedation for transesophageal echocardiogram


CBT, hypnotherapy & probiotics for child abdominal pain


Zahid. Methods of reducing pain during bone marrow biopsy: a narrative review. Ann Pallia Med Oct 2015




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