Context: Hypnosis has been used in numerous medical applications for functional and psychological improvement, but has been inadequately tested for anatomical healing.
Objective: To determine whether a hypnotic intervention accelerates bodily tissue healing using bone fracture healing as a site-specific test.
Design: Randomized controlled pilot study.
Setting: Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Mass, and McLean Hospital, Belmont, Mass.
Patients: Twelve healthy adult subjects with the study fracture were recruited from an orthopedic emergency department and randomized to either a treatment (n = 6) or a control group (n = 6). One subject, randomized to the treatment group, withdrew prior to the intervention.
Intervention: All 11 subjects received standard orthopedic care including serial radiographs and clinical assessments through 12 weeks following injury. The treatment group received a hypnotic intervention (individual sessions, audiotapes) designed to augment fracture healing.
Main outcome measures: Radiological and orthopedic assessments of fracture healing 12 weeks following injury and hypnotic subjects' final questionnaires and test scores on the Hypnotic Induction Scale.
Results: Results showed trends toward faster healing for the hypnosis group through week 9 following injury. Objective radiographic outcome data revealed a notable difference in fracture edge healing at 6 weeks. Orthopedic assessments showing trends toward better healing for hypnosis subjects through week 9 included improved ankle mobility; greater functional ability to descend stairs; lower use of analgesics in weeks 1, 3, and 9; and trends toward lower self-reported pain through 6 weeks.
Conclusion: Despite a small sample size and limited statistical power, these data suggest that hypnosis may be capable of enhancing both anatomical and functional fracture healing, and that further investigation of hypnosis to accelerate healing is warranted.