The effectiveness of hypnosis for pain relief: A systematic review and meta-analysis of 85 controlled experimental trials

Thompson, Trevor; Terhune, Devin Blair; Oram, Charlotte; Sharangparni, Joseph; Rouf, Rommana; Solmi, Marco; Veronese, Nicola and Stubbs, Brendon. 2019. The effectiveness of hypnosis for pain relief: A systematic review and meta-analysis of 85 controlled experimental trials. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 99, pp. 298-310. ISSN 0149-7634 [Article]

Thompson et al. in press NBR.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (2MB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

The current meta-analysis aimed to quantify the effectiveness of hypnosis for reducing pain and identify factors that influence efficacy. Six major databases were systematically searched for trials comparing hypnotic inductions with no-intervention control conditions on pain ratings, threshold and tolerance using experimentally-evoked pain models in healthy participants. Eighty-five eligible studies (primarily crossover trials) were identified, consisting of 3632 participants (hypnosis n = 2892, control n = 2646). Random effects meta-analysis found analgesic effects of hypnosis for all pain outcomes (g = 0.54-0.76, p’s<.001). Efficacy was strongly influenced by hypnotic suggestibility and use of direct analgesic suggestion. Specifically, optimal pain relief was obtained for hypnosis with direct analgesic suggestion administered to high and medium suggestibles, who respectively demonstrated 42% (p < .001) and 29% (p < .001) clinically meaningful reductions in pain. Minimal benefits were found for low suggestibles. These findings suggest that hypnotic intervention can deliver meaningful pain relief for most people and therefore may be an effective and safe alternative to pharmaceutical intervention. High quality clinical data is, however, needed to establish generalisability in chronic pain populations.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


pain, hypnosis, analgesia, review, meta-analysis, suggestion

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



17 February 2019Accepted
18 February 2019Published Online
1 April 2019Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

20 Feb 2019 10:17

Last Modified:

11 Jun 2021 17:06

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)