Curious about hypnosis?

This week’s series of posts will probably be a bit random – bits and pieces of trivia that I find scattered about the interweb!

Like today’s post, which links to a site I stumbled across by chance, a New Zealand hypnotherapy site!

What I like about this site is the use of scientific references rather than opinion or testimony, and the list of myths that I think most people who teach hypnosis, and probably most people who try hypnosis, have encountered!

Some of the pages are not working, sadly – I’ve emailed the author Mike Reeves-McMillan from Titirangi in Auckland, so hopefully they’ll come back up sooner rather than later.  As you know I don’t endorse any specific therapist (or therapy) nor any products, but I do think the information on this site is worth a look.

If you’re interested in hypnosis – and fibromyalgia – this article, just published in European Journal of Pain and written by Stuart Derbyshire, Matthew Whalley and David Oakley, describes an fMRI analysis of Fibromyalgial pain and its modulation by hypnotic and non-hypnotic suggestion.

Recent studies from a range of discplines have been looking at the neuropsychology of ‘central sensitisation disorders’ such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, dysmennorhea, chronic fatigue syndrome and others (see Yunus, 2008).  This study uses fMRI to examine the changes that occur with suggestions regarding the pain experience of fibromyalgia with and without hypnotic induction.

The basic design was quite simple: suggestions following a hypnotic induction and the same suggestions without a hypnotic induction were used during functional MRI imaging to increase and decrease the subjective experience of fibromyalgia pain.

What happened? Suggestion in both conditions resulted in changes in reported pain intensity – but patients reported more control and greater pain reduction when they had been hypnotised.

What happened in the brain? Activation of the midbrain, cerebellum, thalamus and midcingulate, primary and secondary sensory, inferior parietal, insual and prefrontal cortices correlated wth reported changes.  The changes were of greater magnititue when suggestions followed a hypnotic induction in certain specific areas in the brain.

What does this tell us? It seems that in people who can be hypnotised, suggestions that fibromyalgia pain can be reduced (using an image of a dial which could be turned up or down) worked better in people who had a hypnotic induction.  The second interesting finding was that this indicates direct involvement of a network of areas widely associated with the pain ‘neuromatrix’ in the pain experience of people with fibromyalgia.

The study numbers were small, and typical of most experimental work, the selection criteria was quite strict – but for people who want to use hypnosis as a therapeutic strategy it is encouraging to see areas of the brain respond to the induction and suggestion.  Perhaps this is a strategy that is somewhat under-used in pain management – although I would probably call the method they used ‘imagery’ because it’s easier to describe and less likely to be misinterpreted by patients.

Derbeyshire SWG. et al., Fibromyalgia pain and its modulation by hypnotic and non-hypnotic suggestion: An fMRI analysis.  European Journal of Pain (2008), doi: 10.1016/j.ejpain.2008.06.010

YUNUS, M. (2008). Central Sensitivity Syndromes: A New Paradigm and Group Nosology for Fibromyalgia and Overlapping Conditions, and the Related Issue of Disease versus Illness. Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism, 37(6), 339-352. DOI: 10.1016/j.semarthrit.2007.09.003
Don’t forget, if you enjoy these posts and would like to read more – you can subscribe to my RSS feed by clicking on the link above left – or you can bookmark the blog and come on back tomorrow for another exciting instalment!


  1. Thank you for your mentioning the latest research that show that hypnosis does affect our brain and hence the interpretation of pain. Hypnosis is a powerful tool for patients in chronic pain. It is how as an anesthetist, I got into this field of medical hypnosis.

    On my web site, as a medical professional who uses hypnosis for medical conditions, I also include a lot of research. When we can give proof to people that hypnosis works it increases their belief and hence the results.

    In the blog , I add a lot of personal experiences with clients and thoughts about the positive aspects of hypnosis

  2. Thanks so much for commenting! I use hypnosis a lot with people experiencing chronic pain, for people who are able to use it, it’s a very helpful, drug-free, side-effect free way of coping! Thanks too for the link to your blog, I’ll add it to my blogroll.
    There is a lot of research about hypnosis, which I think we have a responsibility to share, it’s one of the ‘alternative’ health care strategies that has good scientific support.
    I hope you visit again soon!

  3. Hi there. I wrote about this also on my own blog. It is great to read your post from slightly different angle. It certainly is a really interesting study. If anyone is interested in hypnosis for stopping easing the pain associated with fibromyalgia then I have included a link to a really good hypnosis download for fibromyalgia pain on my blog post at

  4. Hi there! Thanks for taking the time to visit and comment (there is life out there!!). Good link too, thanks for including it. I’ve found that you can use a whole heap of different images for pain, one of my favourites is an oil can with scented oil (pink of course!) that you can pour over the sore part and ease the pain away….

  5. Thanks, Bronwyn, for checking out my site and letting me know about the problems. Learning point: Do not upgrade your WordPress plugins and then go away for 4 days without checking that your blog still works.

    I’ve now fixed the issue, I believe, and the blog part of the site should be available again. I’ve got a lot of material on there about health skills, motivation and the like, which may be of interest to you and your readers. As you say, I try to keep to the scientific straight and narrow, and to include references to scientific studies where applicable.

  6. Great to hear you’ve been able to fix the problem – I don’t know that I would have any idea about where to start!! You’ve got some great stuff there, I hope people do drop in.

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