Scientists find new way to treat chronic pain after spinal cord injury

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A new study suggests that hypnosis can help individuals with recent spinal cord injuries develop coping strategies for managing chronic pain.

Almost 90% of the participants in the study reported a benefit from the treatment.

Now, a psychologist from the University of Washington School of Medicine and colleagues are planning a larger study to confirm these findings and help those who often struggle with pain resistant to biomedical treatment.

Study Findings and Implications

“Clinical hypnosis is really focused on accessing and leveraging the parts of your brain that do things for you automatically.

Your brain does hundreds of things for you on a daily basis, like breathing and blinking,” explained Amy Starosta, an assistant professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine.

Starosta attempts to encode cognitive therapy practices into the brain so that when patients start experiencing pain, they automatically redirect how they perceive the sensation.

In Starosta’s recent study, 71% of the 53 participants completed at least three hypnosis sessions, with 88% of those reporting benefit from and satisfaction with the treatment.

The findings are described in detail in a paper published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Future Directions

Starosta and her team plan to conduct a larger, randomized trial after the pilot study indicated potential benefits of the treatment.

Recruitment for this study will begin this fall and will continue at Harborview Medical Center for the next three years. The team will investigate the effects of the intervention during hospitalization and post-discharge.

Starosta and her colleagues also published a case study in the Journal of Clinical Medicine detailing the treatment of a patient on a ventilator who had difficulties with communication and relaxation.

Highlighting the brevity of the intervention, Starosta said, “We think this is something that can be taught quickly, accessed easily, and is broadly helpful.”

The approach’s efficacy could make a significant difference in patients’ quality of life by offering a strategy to cope with, and potentially prevent, chronic pain following spinal cord injury.

If you care about pain, please read studies about vitamins that could help reduce bone fracture risk, and most depression drug prescribed for chronic pain may be not effective or safe.

For more information about wellness, please see recent studies about new hope for treating knee pain, and scientists find the cause of chest pain.

The study was published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

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