Around one third of patients who are investigated for chest pain turn out not to have heart disease or any other identifiable cause for their problem. So-called non-cardiac chest pain can be very hard to treat. It’s been suggested that reflux of stomach acid or psychological problems might contribute to the condition.
Researchers at Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester, England, divided 28 patients with non-cardiac chest pain into two groups. One received 12 sessions of hypnotherapy over 17 weeks and the other received placebo and so-called supportive therapy. Eighty per cent of those receiving hypnotherapy reported significant pain relief, compared to only three out of 13 in the control group. The hypnotherapy also improved the sense of wellbeing and reduced the use of painkillers.
Brain scans of those treated with hypnotherapy for other conditions shows how it affects a region of the brain controlling emotional response to pain. It also reduces levels of acid produced by the stomach. Both mechanisms provide a plausible explanation for the benefit of hypnotherapy in non-cardiac chest pain.
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