Hypnosis compared to relaxation in the outpatient management of chronic low back pain

Arch Phys Rehab 1983 Nov 64(11):548-52

McCauley JDThelen MHFrank RGWillard RRCallen KE.

Chronic low back pain (CLBP) presents a problem of massive dimensions. While inpatient approaches have been evaluated, outpatient treatment programs have received relatively little examination. Hypnosis and relaxation are two powerful techniques amenable to outpatient use. Seventeen outpatient subjects suffering from CLBP were assigned to either Self-Hypnosis (n = 9) or Relaxation (n = 8) treatments. Following pretreatment assessment, all subjects attended a single placebo session in which they received minimal EMG feedback. One week later the subjects began eight individual weekly treatment sessions. Subjects were assessed on a number of dependent variables at pretreatment, following the placebo phase, one week after the completion of treatment, and three months after treatment ended. Subjects in both groups showed significant decrements in such measures as average pain rating, pain as measured by derivations from the McGill Pain Questionnaire, level of depression, and length of pain analog line. Self-Hypnosis subjects reported less time to sleep onset, and physicians rated their use of medication as less problematic after treatment. While both treatments were effective, neither proved superior to the other. The placebo treatment produced nonsignificant improvement.