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Clinical hypnosis in the treatment of postmenopausal hot flashes: a randomized controlled trial

Elkins, Gary R. PhD1; Fisher, William I. MA1; Johnson, Aimee K. MA1; Carpenter, Janet S. PhD, RN, FAAN2; Keith, Timothy Z. PhD3

Menopause: The Journal of The North American Menopause Society: March 2013 - Volume 20 - Issue 3 - p 291–298
doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e31826ce3ed
Original Articles

Objective The use of estrogen and progesterone to manage vasomotor symptoms (ie, hot flashes and night sweats) has declined because of concerns about their risks, and there is an increased interest in alternate, effective, and low-risk treatments. This study reports the results of a randomized controlled trial of clinical hypnosis for treating vasomotor symptoms among postmenopausal women.

Methods This is a randomized, single-blind, controlled, clinical trial involving 187 postmenopausal women reporting a minimum of seven hot flashes per day (or at least 50 hot flashes a week) at baseline between December 2008 and April 2012. Eligible participants received five weekly sessions of either clinical hypnosis or structured-attention control. Primary outcomes were hot flash frequency (subjectively and physiologically recorded) and hot flash score assessed by daily diaries on weeks 2 to 6 and week 12. Secondary outcomes included measures of hot flash–related daily interference, sleep quality, and treatment satisfaction.

Results In a modified intent-to-treat analysis that included all randomized participants who provided data, reported subjective hot flash frequency from baseline to week 12 showed a mean reduction of 55.82 (74.16%) hot flashes for the clinical hypnosis intervention versus a mean reduction of 12.89 (17.13%) hot flashes for controls (P < 0.001; 95% CI, 36.15-49.67). The mean reduction in hot flash score was 18.83 (80.32%) for the clinical hypnosis intervention as compared with 3.53 (15.38%) for controls (P < 0.001; 95% CI, 12.60-17.54). At 12-week follow-up, the mean reduction in physiologically monitored hot flashes was 5.92 (56.86%) for clinical hypnosis and 0.88 (9.94%) for controls (P < 0.001; 95% CI, 2.00-5.46). Secondary outcomes were significantly improved compared with controls at 12-week follow-up: hot flash–related interference (P < 0.001; 95% CI, 2.74-4.02), sleep quality (P < 0.001; 95% CI, 3.65-5.84), and treatment satisfaction (P < 0.001; 95% CI, 7.79-8.59).

Conclusions Compared with structured-attention control, clinical hypnosis results in significant reductions in self-reported and physiologically measured hot flashes and hot flash scores in postmenopausal women.

From the 1Mind-Body Medicine Research Laboratory, Baylor University, Waco, TX; 2School of Nursing, Indiana University, Indianapolis, IN; and 3College of Education, University of Texas, Austin, TX.

Received June 6, 2012; revised and accepted July 26, 2012.

The content of this article is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine or the National Institutes of Health.

Funding/support: This project was supported by award number U01 AT004634-05 from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Financial disclosure/conflicts of interest: None reported.

Address correspondence to: Gary R. Elkins, PhD, Mind-Body Medicine Research Laboratory, Baylor University, PO Box 97334, Waco, TX 76798. E-mail:

© 2013 by The North American Menopause Society.