THURSDAY, Nov. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Hypnosis may help reduce
hot flashes in postmenopausal women, cutting down their frequency
as much as 74 percent, researchers say.
Hot flashes affect about 80 percent of women as they go through
menopause. The sudden rush of heat can be followed by chills and
can reduce quality of life.
Researcher Gary Elkins, director of the Mind-Body Medicine
Research Laboratory at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, assigned
187 women who had at least seven hot flashes daily to either five
weekly sessions of clinical hypnosis with at-home practice or a
comparison treatment called structured attention.
Women self-reported their hot flashes for 12 weeks, and the
researchers also measured hot flash frequency by a skin conductance
"Our results indicated both a reduction in perceived hot flashes and physiologically verified reduction in hot flashes over three months," Elkins said.
The study was published online Oct. 22 in the journal
Women in the comparison group met once a week for five weeks
with a clinician. They discussed symptoms, avoided negative
suggestions, and were given a recording with information about hot
flashes that they were told to listen to daily.
Those in the hypnosis group received five weekly sessions with a
clinician versed in hypnosis. They were given suggestions for
mental images of coolness, a safe place or relaxation, and picked
the one they wanted to use. In addition, they were given an audio
recording of a hypnotic induction to practice daily.
After 12 weeks, the hypnosis group reported 74 percent fewer hot
flashes, while the comparison group reported 17 percent fewer.
The study was funded by the National Center for Complementary
and Alternative Medicine of the U.S. National Institutes of
In the wake of the Women's Health Initiative study results,
released in 2003, which found increased health risks such as heart
disease with long-term hormone therapy use, many women are seeking
non-hormonal alternatives for hot flash relief. In a previous
study, Elkins had found that hypnosis helped breast cancer
survivors reduce hot flashes by nearly 70 percent.
One drawback, Elkins said, is the lack of people with training
in hypnosis for hot flashes. He hopes to develop a CD or DVD
Meanwhile, women can get referrals from the American Society of
Clinical Hypnosis and the Society for Clinical and Experimental
Hypnosis, he said.
Costs vary. Elkins estimates an initial visit is about $170, and
follow-ups about $135.
No adverse effects were reported, Elkins noted, except for
temporary irritation from the skin conductance monitors used to
verify hot flashes.
The nearly 75 percent reduction ''is a very good result," said
Dr. Margery Gass, executive director of the North American
Menopause Society and a consultant at the Cleveland Clinic. She
reviewed the findings.
The most likely drawback to using hypnosis for hot flashes, she
said, is the effort required. Initial training must be given by a
health care professional versed in hypnosis, she said, "and then
you have to practice at home."
Experts don't know exactly how hypnosis may work to cool the hot
flashes. Gass said it probably affects the body's thermostat
regulation in the brain.
To learn more about hypnosis, visit the
American Society of Clinical Hypnosis.
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