Hypnosis for Pain Management in the Older Adult

Norma G. Cuellar, DSN, RN

Disclosures

Pain Manag Nurs. 2005;6(3):105-111. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Pain is a physical, emotional and psychologic phenomenon that is often ignored in older adults causing depression and poor quality of life. Older adults report the use of complementary and alternative medicine in some form with 80% of these users reporting improvement in their health conditions. Although physical pain in the older adult is usually managed with pharmacologic interventions, Methods that may reduce the use of prescription drugs may decrease adverse effects that can compromise the physiologic state of the older adult. Hypnosis has continued to gain acceptance within mainstream medicine as an appropriate treatment and can be integrated safely with conventional medicine as an effective treatment for a variety of conditions in the older adult. It is an intervention that can be used for relaxation and pain control, especially when conventional pharmacologic regimens have failed. The Purpose of this article is to review the concepts related to pain in older adults; the use of complementary and alternative medicine in the older adult; hypnosis and the older adult (i.e., background, definition, benefits, research, mechanism of action, hypnotizability, and the process); and the implications of using hypnosis for pain management in the older adult.

Hypnosis is one of the oldest and most documented psychologic interventions for the reduction of pain and suffering. In recent years, it has become an increasingly more acceptable therapeutic intervention by health care providers in a variety of settings. Although scientists differ on theories about the nature of hypnosis, it is obvious that persons who are hypnotized report changes in the way they feel, think, and behave. Research studies are inconclusive about the outcomes of hypnosis. However, many studies (Ashton et al., 1997; Cadranel et al., 1994; Chaves & Dworkin, 1997; Hrezo, 1998; Lang, Joyce, Spiegel, Hamilton, & Lee, 1996; Marchioro et al., 2000; Patterson & Jensen, 2003; Van der Does, Van Dyck, & Spijker, 1988) have demonstrated that self-hypnosis in persons who experience pain or stress can reduce the need for pain medications.

Outcomes of untreated or mistreated pain in the older adult can lead to depression, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness. Hypnosis may be an option for the older adult who does not want to take pharmacologic agents for chronic pain. To date, only a limited number of studies have documented the outcomes of hypnosis in the older adult (Ashton et al., 1997; Gay, Philippot, & Luminet, 2002; Lang et al., 1996). However, research needs to be done that uses gerontologic concepts and Methods when using hypnosis in older adults. This article provides an overview of concepts related to pain in older adults; the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the older adult; hypnosis (i.e., background, definition, benefits, research, mechanism of action, hypnotizability, and the process); hypnosis and the older adult; and the implications of using hypnosis for pain management in the older adult.

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