Hypnosis, Guided Imagery and Fibromyalgia

According to a recent systematic review published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, hypnosis and guided imagery may not improve fibromyalgia-related quality of life. Fibromyalgia is a complex, disabling, chronic condition characterized by widespread pain, fatigue and stiffness in the muscles, ligaments and tendons. There may also be multiple tender points, which are areas of the body which experience pain upon slight pressure. Fibromyalgia may also be associated with sleep problems, depression and an inability to think clearly.

Currently, a cure for fibromyalgia is lacking. However, some treatments may be effective at reducing symptoms, such as medications, behavioral interventions, support groups, patient education and exercise. In mild cases, a reduction in stress and certain lifestyle changes may be enough to manage the disease. These changes may include counseling, regular exercise, physical therapy, healthy sleep habits, and stress reduction.

The recent meta-analysis and systematic review combined the results of six controlled trials. There was a total of 239 patients with fibromyalgia who received an average of nine hypnosis and guided imagery sessions.

Hypnosis, which is also known as hypnotherapy, is a trance-like state of altered consciousness in which the patient experiences increased focus, concentration, and openness to suggestion. Guided imagery is the process of directing a person's thoughts through suggestions that direct towards a relaxed and focused state.

The results showed that hypnosis and guided imagery did not statistically significantly reduce limitations in health-related quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia at the time of final treatment. Due to lack of available data, changes in fatigue, sleep, depressed mood, and health-related quality of life at follow-up were not calculated.

The researchers concluded that due to few available trials and trials of poor quality, future well-designed trials are necessary to adequately assess the impact of hypnosis and guided imagery on fibromyalgia.

In an evidence-based clinical review, Natural Standard found that hypnosis and guided imagery had unclear or conflicting evidence in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Further well-designed research may be necessary to realize their potential benefits. Natural Standard found, however, that both hypnosis and guided imagery have good scientific evidence for the treatment of certain types of headache and pain. In addition, hypnosis also has good scientific evidence as an adjunct to cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and for treating anxiety and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

For more information about fibromyalgia, please visit Natural Standard's database.


  1. Bernardy K, Fuber N, Klose P, et al. Efficacy of hypnosis/guided imagery in fibromyalgia syndrome - a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2011 Jun 15;12:133. View Abstract
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. www.naturalstandard.com