October 19, 1995 in Nation/World

Chronic Pain? Try Hypnotism, Relaxation

Associated Press

Can’t sleep? Try meditation.

And if your lower back hurts, why not hypnotize the pain away?

Meditation and hypnosis are among the alternative treatments an independent panel of the National Institutes of Health suggested Wednesday as ways for millions of Americans to cope with insomnia and chronic pain.

“A number of well-defined behavioral and relaxation interventions are now available, some of which are commonly used to treat chronic pain and insomnia,” concluded the panel of 12 experts in behavior, pain and sleep medicines, nursing, psychology and neurology.

They include relaxation, biofeedback and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

While the panel urged acceptance and wider use of behavioral and relaxation techniques in combination with conventional treatments, it was unable to recommend any of the methods as being better than another.

Relaxation requires individuals to focus repeatedly on a word, sound, prayer, phrase, body sensation or muscular activity until they become calm. The panel said it found the techniques most effective in treating chronic pain such as lower back pain, arthritis and headaches.

It found hypnosis effective for treating cancer-related pain, irritable bowel syndrome and tension headaches.

The panel determined that biofeedback also relieved chronic pain, but worked best on tension headaches. In biofeedback, individuals are trained to control involuntary body functions such as blood pressure and heartbeat.

Cognitive-behavioral techniques alter patterns of negative thinking, and worked best on lower back pain and arthritis, the panel said.

The panel also said insurers should treat the alternative therapies as they do standard medical treatments and reimburse providers accordingly. It added that the treatments can be administered by nurse-practitioners and social workers to reduce costs.

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