Alpha brain waves and chronic pain treatment.png

There was a fascinating study done on brain activity and how people respond to treatment. They found, for example, that people who were more susceptible to being hypnotized responded less to cognitive therapy.  I can’t be hypnotized but I did respond well to cognitive therapy, so I suppose I fit into this criteria well.  The study looked at EEG brain waves and response to non-drug treatments. The study was presented at the American Pain Society 2018 meeting.

For the study they had pain patients undergo 4 weeks of treatment in either:

  • Pain education classes that inform the person of how pain works. 42 were involved in this.
  • Cognitive therapy which involves identifying and reducing negative thoughts that occur with chronic pain. 43 were involved in this area.
  • Hypnotic therapy which involves hypnotic thoughts to help change how we think about pain and the meaning of pain.  And 44 were involved in this area.

The EEG assessments found that higher alpha waves in patients led to a high response to hypnotic therapy and a decreased response to cognitive therapy.

They also found “The exploratory analysis also included the evaluation of hypnotizability, assessed by using the Stanford Clinical Hypnotizability Scale, which showed that those with higher hypnotizability scores were also less likely to respond to cognitive therapy. However, greater hypnotizability was associated with a superior response to pain education.” Study

Furthermore, the article goes into another study that shows those with lower alpha waves do better with cognitive therapy. A validation of the first study.

It showed, though, that those with high alpha waves may also see more benefits with mindful meditation. Although in this study of 69 people the perks of this were best at 4 weeks and less at 8 weeks.

This research is pretty fascinating in that it could help guide people to beneficial treatment methods. Those with high alpha waves responding well to pain education, hypnotic therapy, and mindful meditation. With low alpha waves to cognitive therapy. Apparently, I fall into low alpha waves, I’d suspect. Simply because I do respond so well to cognitive therapy. And I have yet to be able to be hypnotized in therapy. However, I like mindful meditation. No, it doesn’t help with pain intensity, but I feel it helps with relaxation, stress, and perhaps the perception of pain.

See also:

Fibromyalgia: does mindfulness help with depressive symptoms?

Chronic pain and cognitive therapy


2 thoughts on “Alpha brain waves and chronic pain treatment

  1. Interesting study! I respond well to being hypnotized but I don’t respond well to cognitive therapy.


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