NEW YORK, Apr 21 (Reuters) People with chest pain that's not caused by a heart condition or heartburn may find hypnosis provides significant pain relief and improves their sense of general well-being, British investigators report.
The causes of non-cardiac chest pain, as it's termed, are unknown. It can create so much anxiety that many people with the condition actually seek more care than patients with bona fide heart disease.
According to the researchers' article in the medical journal Gut, many patients still have symptoms even after treatment with gastric acid-lowering drugs and antidepressants.
Dr Peter J Whorwell and colleagues at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester have previously shown that functional gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome, respond well to hypnotherapy.
Based on that success, they tested the strategy in 28 patients with non-cardiac chest pain who were randomly assigned to hypnotherapy or just supportive listening. Both interventions were administered in twelve 30-minute sessions over 17 weeks.
The hypnosis started with participants being told that their symptoms could be due to disturbances of motility, visceral sensation and stress. Then, after progressive muscular relaxation, 'chest-focused' suggestions were introduced, ''centered around normalization of function'' of the esophagus, the investigators explain. Patients were advised to practice the techniques daily.
Eighty per cent of patients in the hypnosis group had complete or moderate improvements in chest pain compared with only 23 per cent of those in the non-hypnosis group. Corresponding improvements in general well-being were reported by 73 per cent and 23 per cent.
Hypnosis was also associated with significantly greater reductions in pain severity as assessed on a linear analog scale and by decreased medication use, as well as with a trend toward reduced frequency of pain.
However, the two groups had similar anxiety and depression levels.
Whorwell's group acknowledges that hypnotherapy can be expensive, but it could be cost-saving in the long run by reducing testing, medication, and visits to doctors.
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