ABSTRACT: Effective, rigorously evaluated nonpharmacological treatments for chronic pain are needed. This study compared the effectiveness of training in hypnosis (HYP) and mindfulness meditation (MM) with an active education control (ED). Veterans (N = 328) were randomly assigned to 8 manualized, group-based, in-person sessions of HYP (n = 110), MM (n = 108), or ED (n = 110). Primary (average pain intensity [API]) and secondary outcomes were assessed at pretreatment, posttreatment, and 3 and 6 months posttreatment. Treatment effects were evaluated using linear regression, a generalized estimating equation approach, or a Fisher exact test, depending on the variable. There were no significant omnibus between-group differences in pretreatment to posttreatment change in API; however, pretreatment to posttreatment improvements in API and several secondary variables were seen for participants in all 3 conditions. Participation in MM resulted in greater decreases in API and pain interference at 6 months posttreatment relative to ED. Participation in HYP resulted in greater decreases in API, pain interference, and depressive symptoms at 3 and 6 months posttreatment compared with ED. No significant differences on outcomes between HYP and MM were detected at any time point. This study suggests that all 3 interventions provide posttreatment benefits on a range of outcomes, but the benefits of HYP and MM continue beyond the end of treatment, while the improvements associated with ED dissipate over time. Future research is needed to determine whether the between-group differences that emerged posttreatment are reliable, whether there are benefits of combining treatments, and to explore moderating and mediating factors.
Valuable non-pharmacologic view of hypnosis, mindful meditation, and education as interventions for chronic pain. Bottom line: all three are helpful, but only hypnosis and meditation persist beyond study period (<6 months). This indicates value of these interventions, but much more study is required to put these in the context of various types of chronic pain, as well as when combined with pharmacologic modalities including opioids.