Hypnosis or hypnotherapy belongs to a branch of medicine known as complementary and alternative medicine.
Hypnotherapy aims to work on the mental processes rather than the physical processes at work in ill health. In a typical hypnotherapy session, the hypnotist will induce a deep state of relaxation which encourages a heightened susceptibility to suggestion. The therapist will then make suggestions that are of therapeutic value to the individual with the expectation that the individual's thought and behavioural patterns will be sufficiently modified on waking to effect some positive changes.
Some people with multiple sclerosis look to hypnotherapy for a range of symptoms including pain, spasm, anxiety and depression. Though no large-scale studies have evaluated the effectiveness of hypnosis as a form of treatment for people with MS specifically, limited research suggests that hypnosis-induced relaxation can help reduce anxiety and pain.
Although some small studies have looked at the effect of hypnotherapy on the function of the immune system (again, not in MS), more research is needed in this area.
The Hypnotherapy Directory lists hypnotherapists with relevant qualifications or who are registered with one of the several professional bodies.
- New York: Demos Medical Publishing; 2007. Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Multiple Sclerosis. 2nd ed.
- International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis 2017;65(1):86-97. Summary Efficacy of self-hypnosis in pain management in female patients with multiple sclerosis.
- International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis 2011;59(1):45-63. Summary 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 2009;57(2):198-221. Full article A comparison of self-hypnosis versus progressive muscle relaxation in patients with multiple sclerosis and chronic pain.
Complementary medicine: a nurses view
MS nurse Vicki Gutteridge looks at the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAMS) in managing multiple sclerosis
The two main types of pain in multiple sclerosis are nerve (neuropathic) pain and musculoskeletal (nociceptive) pain. Find out more about pain in this A-Z entry.
Spasticity and spasms
Spasticity is a symptom of MS where the muscles feel stiff, heavy and difficult to move. A spasm is a sudden stiffening of a muscle.
Anxiety is often linked to feelings of stress, depression or low mood, and is a common symptom for people living with MS. Find out more about what causes anxiety, and what you can do if you're experiencing it.
Depression can be common in MS, either as a direct symptom or as a consequence of living with the condition. Find help to recognise and cope with depression here.
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