A single session of hypnosis or mindful meditation may aid in self-management of acute pain, according to results of a study published in the Journal of Pain Research.
Participants (N=224) for this study were recruited at the William James Center for Research in Portugal and randomly assigned in a 1:1:1:1 ratio to receive a single session of hypnosis (n=57), mindfulness meditation (n=54), Christian prayer (n=62), or attention control (n=51). Each active intervention consisted of a 20-minute audio recording teaching and allowing participants to prepare for painful stimulation. The control intervention consisted of a 20-minute audio recording. The primary outcomes were change in pain intensity and tolerance and heart rate variability during application of a cold pressor arm wrap (CPAW) prior to and following the interventions.
The mean age of study participants was 28.89 (standard deviation [SD], 11.82) years, 70.1% were women, 30.8% were Catholic, and 1.8% were other Christian denominations.
Mean 10-point numeric rating scale (NRS) pain intensity score was 5.77 (SD, 2.35) points pretest and 5.15 (SD, 2.34) points posttest, and mean pain tolerance was 202.52 (SD, 114.68) seconds pretest and 231.62 (SD, 102.71) seconds posttest.
Stratified by intervention, the lowest pain intensity scores were observed in the hypnosis group posttest (mean, 4.49 points), followed by mindfulness (mean, 5.17 points) and control (mean, 5.41 points) groups. Pain tolerance was longest for the hypnosis group (mean, 261.44 s) and was shortest for the control group (mean, 196.94 s). No time-by-group effects were significant for either pain intensity or tolerance, but significant time and gender effects were reported (all P <.001).
Similarly, no group effects were observed for heart rate variability measures, and both time and gender were significant predictors overall (both P <.001). For the 7 individual heart rate variability outcomes, 6 significantly changed over time (all P ≤.032) and 3 were different between genders (all P ≤.038).
This study may have been biased as the participants were healthy young adults. In addition, the Christian prayer intervention may not have been effective, as more study participants assigned to the prayer intervention identified as agnostic or atheist (35.5%) than as Catholic or other Christian denomination (32.3%).
Study authors concluded, “The findings provide important insights into the effects of a brief single audio-recorded training session of hypnosis, mindfulness meditation, and Christian prayer on experimental pain-related outcomes. The findings suggest that both single short-term hypnosis and mindfulness meditation training, but not biblical-based Christian prayer, may be viable options for effective acute pain self-management. The findings also suggest that hypnosis might be slightly more efficacious than mindfulness meditation, and least in the short-term, and perhaps especially among novice individuals with very limited hypnosis or meditation practice/training.”
This article originally appeared on Clinical Pain Advisor
Ferreira-Valente A, Van Dyke BP, Day MA, et al. Immediate effects of hypnosis, mindfulness meditation, and prayer on cold pressor outcomes: a four-arm parallel experimental study. J Pain Res. Published online December 23, 2022. doi:10.2147/JPR.S388082