Hypnosis and pain in children
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Hypnosis and pain in children Chantal Wood Paediatrician, Pain Management Centre Hôpital Robert Debré, Paris, France. Hypnosis in children. It is a wonderful experiential tool

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Hypnosis and pain in children

Chantal Wood


Pain Management Centre

Hôpital Robert Debré, Paris, France

Hypnosis in children
Hypnosis in children

  • It is a wonderfulexperientialtool

  • Used more easily by childrenthanadultsbecausethey have blurredboundariesbetweenfantasy and reality

  • Maximum hypnotisablity :

    • betweenage 8 and 12

    • under 4 years : distraction

What is hypnosis
What is hypnosis?

  • A feeling of ease or mental relaxation

  • An absorbed and sustained focus of attention

  • An absence of judging, monitoring, and censoring

  • A suspension of usual orientation towards time, location and/or sense of self

  • An experience of one’s own responses as automatic

  • Allowing suggestions such as those of analgesia

    Large et al. Proceedings of the 10th World Congress on Pain. Progress in Pain Research and Management 2003; 24 : 839-851

A bit of physiology
A bit of physiology

Posterior sensitive root

Rolando Substance

Spinal Ganglion1st neuron

A  and  Fibres

A  and C fibres

Motor Anterior Root

Grey Matter

White Matter


Cerebral activity during pain

Primary and secondary somatosensorial cortex

Insula Cortex

Cingular Anterior


Rainville et al., Médecine Science 16 (2000)

Hypnosis and pain modulation
Hypnosis and pain modulation

Differentmecanismscouldtake place :

  • At the peripherallevel: hypnosismodulates the nociceptive input by down-regulating Ad and C fibres stimulation.

  • At the spinal level: reduction of the nociceptive reflex RIII, a polysynaptic reflex whichis not subject to voluntary control.

  • At the supraspinallevel: modulation of different sites involved in the experience of pain.

  • Hypnotic suggestions canmodulatedirectlyboth the sensory and affective dimensions of the pain perception.

Cortical modulation of pain laurent b peyron r letter of the institut upsa of pain 2002 17
Cortical modulation of pain Laurent B. Peyron R. Letter of the Institut UPSA of Pain 2002; 17

  • Pain is like any sensorial stimuli, submitted to the influence of attention, anticipation, mental imagery, conditionning

  • The fronto-cingular areas of the brain, activated by analgesics like morphine or by cortical stimulation, are the same areas sollicited by complementary therapies like hypnosis

  • This shows the reduction of the dichotomy between the anatomo-biological approach and the psychological approach of pain

Importance of the first procedure lp or bma
Importance of the first procedure (LP or BMA)

Placebo first time followed by fentanyl on all subsequent procedures

Pain – Oucher transformed to 0-10

Fentanyl for all procedures

1ère 2ème 3ème 4ème 5ème


Weisman SJ, Bernstein B, Schechter NL (1998). Consequences of inadequate analgesia during painful procedures in children. Arch Pediat Adol Med, 152, 147.

Two types of memory
Two types of memory

  • Explicit memory

  • Conscious

  • The child can recall his pain (site, intensity, duration…)

  • Active after the age of 3 or 4

Implicit memory

  • Unconscious

  • A lost souvenir can be recalled through a similar experience and give new sensations and emotions

  • Active at all ages,

  • Main memory in small children

  • Bothmemoriesplay a role :

  • - in the anticipation of the followingexperience

  • - in the consequences of the pain

Descending analgesia – When the spine echoes what the brain expectsP Goffaux, WJ Redmond, P Rainville, S MarchandPain 2007, 130 : 137-143

  • Our expectations concerning pain modify our pain perception

  • Our expectations of hyperalgesia completely block the analgesic effects of the decending inhibition on the spinal nociceptive reflexes

  • Our expectations act at the spinal level but also also on our brain

  • The efficacy of valid analgesic procedures can be blocked by anti-analgesic expectancy

Useful ideas brain expects

  • At the hospital, the childisfocused on hisanxiety and his pain

  • During a procedureheisalready in a « hypnotic transe » which the carercan use…This situation creates a « natural » dissociation

  • Use whatver the childbrings….. Histoys… his teddybear…his car….

  • Get to know the child (his cognitif level), whathelikes, his expectations, his motivation…

Have the child brain expectsparticipate actively ++++ : the technique works better !!!

Use touch (Aa et Ab), the thought of a touch (the wind blowing), of a mouvement…

Interact with the child especially if he is young or cognitively impaired

Fingers… play with fingers

Feet … stepping on feet…

Blowing bubbles…

Make sure the child is concentrated (or focused) on something else ++++

Never abandon the child ++++. Do not stop interacting even if he cries, or shouts….

Useful ideas

Hypnosis : brain expects

a fabulous tool to help the child in pain !

How can this tool help the child ?

- by our words (conversational hypnosis)

- by distraction

- by guided imagery with nitrous oxide

- by learning techniques of hypno-analgesia

Keep in mind that when some on is afraid or in pain, he is already in some sort of “hypnosis”, focalised on one part of his body.

The words to use

The Words to Use brain expects

The brain can not hear negative words
The brain can not hear negative words brain expects

« Do not be afraid … »

« Do not worry … »

« It will not hurt … »

« I shall give you the prick and tell you when I will do it.. »

The impact of our words:

Can words hurt? Patient-provider interactions during invasive procedures : Lang EV et al. Pain 2005; 114 : 303-309

Be confident…

What you are living is not easy…..

Here we are doing what we have to do… while you could just focus and stay in your safe place and be comfortable…in the world of……

Conversational hypnosis
Conversational hypnosis brain expects

Can words hurt? Patient- providers interactions during invasive procedures. E Lang et al. Pain 2005

Studies on placebo :

During the post-operative period, verbal suggestions of analgesia were followed by a higher placebo effect (Pollo et al. 2001, with buprenorphine)

In patients with an irritable bowel syndrom, suggestions to reduce pain were followed by a higher placebo effect (Verne et al. 2003; Vase et al, 2003)

Focusing attention by distraction
Focusing attention by distraction brain expects

  • Distraction and attention:

    • Most usedmethod by the parents

    • Has to beadapted to the child’s cognitive developmentallevel, and hislevel of fatigue

    • Using all the sensorial paths ([VAKOG]vision, audition, kinesthesia, olfaction, gustation)

  • Parent attention versus distraction : impact on symptom complaints by childrenwith and withoutchronicfunctional abdominal pain. Walker LS, et al. Pain 2006; 122 : 43-52

    • Painful complaints are doubledwhen the parent shows attention

    • Complaints are reduced by 50% whenthereis a distraction

    • Parents of sickchildrenbelievethat distraction has a negativeeffect on theirchild

  • Hypnosis and nitrous oxide
    Hypnosis and Nitrous Oxide brain expects

    • The anxiolytic and sedative actions of nitrous oxide help to focus better on some else than the procedure

    • During inhalation the child keeps a verbl contact with the carer

    • Find out what the child wants to « live » during the procedure :

      « a football match, cycling in the forest, a journey with superman, preparing a birthday cake, decorating the christmas tree… »

    Hypno analgesia
    Hypno-analgesia brain expects

    • 3 techniques canbeused :

      • Suggestions of analgesia or sensorial substitution

        • Gloveanalgesia, topicalanesthesia, switchbox, pain displacement..

      • Suggestions of dissociation

        • Leaveyour body here and go far away…

      • Suggestions on the way of interpreting the painful sensation :

        • Making the sensation lessunpleasant (a tarentula and a migraine)

        • Workingwith a psychotherapeuticapproach on the re- interpretation

    Indications of hypnosis acute and chronic pain

    Hypnosis is complementary to the use of analgesics. brain expects

    It helps reduce pain and anxiety and enables the patient to understand his own ressources

    Headaches, migraines

    Abdominal pain

    Musculo-squeletic pain

    Post traumatic and post-operative pain

    Chronic pain (Sickle cell, Crohn disease…)

    Skin problems


    Self hypnosis

    Banez 2008

    Vlieger et al, 2007, 2010, 2012

    All painful procedures :

    Lumbar poncture and bone marrow aspiration


    Venipunctures… drainage tubes…

    Examining phobic and anxious children



    and any painful episodes

    Butler et al, 2005

    Liossi 1999, 2002, Liossi and Hatira 2003, Liossi et al. 2006, 2009

    Kuttner 1998, 2010

    Wood and Bioy, 2008

    Zeltzer et al, 1982, 2005

    Indications of hypnosis : acute and chronic pain

    Conclusion brain expects


    • Helps the child in reducing his pain and anxiety

    • Allows him to cope better, being able to get the « control » over his pain

    • Shows him that he has his own ressources

    • Should be associated to all the treatments given to reduce acute or chronic pain

    • Helps to create a collaboration between the child, his family, the nursing team and the hypnotherapist

    Against noise
    Against noise brain expects

    Nasogastric tubes

    Nasogastric tubes brain expects

    Magical cream
    Magical Cream brain expects

    Venipunctures brain expects

    Blood samples
    Blood samples brain expects

    CD on hypnotic techniques for the parents : brain expectsSanofi-Aventis-Theraplix and the Fondation of France

    Film made by Michèle and Bernard Dal-Molin, and the Advita Society, and the Pain Management Centre, Hôpital Robert Debré of Paris - France

    Financed by the CNP Fondation

    For Professionals and Teachers Society, and the Pain Management Centre, Hôpital Robert Debré of Paris - France

    Film made by Michèle and Bernard Dal-Molin, the Advita Society, and the Pain Management Centre, Hôpital Robert Debré of Paris - France

    Financed by the APICIL Fondation

    Chantal wood@rdb aphp fr infirmiers douleur@rdb aphp fr
    [email protected] Society, and the Pain Management Centre, Hôpital Robert Debré of Paris - France [email protected]