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Clinical Studies, Guided Relaxation, Hypnosis and Menopause:

Increasing evidence is amassing in support of using guided meditation or hypnosis for hot flashes. In October, Menopause: The journal of North American Menopause Society reported on a new study from the Mind-Body Research Laboratory at Baylor  University suggesting the effectiveness of relaxation for hot flashes.

The research findings support an earlier Baylor study from 2008, published in the Journal of clinical Oncology, also showing impressive results among breast cancer survivors, using guided meditation or hypnosis for hot flashes.

Prior to that, a small pilot study published in the March 2003 issue of Women's Health Issues concluded that "hypnosis or guided meditation appears to be a feasible and promising intervention for hot flashes." This was followed by a 2007 pilot study published in Psycho-Oncology - Journal of the Psychological, Social and Behavioral Dimensions of cancer that fund "clinical hypnosis" may be an effective non-hormonal and non pharmacological treatment for hot flashes."

The recent Baylor research involved 187 women, 93 of whom receive five weekly hypnosis or guided meditation sessions featuring guided visualizations and suggestions for mental images of coolness, a safe place or relaxation, depending on each subject's preference. These women also received an audio  recording for daily practice and reinforcement. The 94 women in the control group received talk therapy and recordings with information about hot flashes but no hypnotic meditation induction.

The menopause report indicates at a 12 week follow up the women who had received the guided meditation/hypnosis sessions reported 74% fewer hot flashes while women in a control group had a 17% reduction. Frequency and severity of the hot flashes also dropped by 80% in the guided meditation/hypnosis group compared to a 15% decrease in the control group.

Research in this area has been spurred by a 2003 study from the Women's Health Initiative that found long term hormone therapy used for hot flashes is associated with increased health risks, including breast cancer and heart disease. Gary Elkins, Ph. D , profession of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor's College of Arts & Science and director of the Mind-body Medicine research Laboratory told the Cleveland Plain Dealer the new study is "Good news for several reasons," including offering women a choice of treatments. "And it's safe," he added. "It doesn't result in health care risk, and it has sided benefits such as improved sleep."

News of the study has been widely reported, including articles at Web MD, the Los Angeles Times and U.S News and World Report. An article at Science Daily reported this quote from Elkins: This is the first study in which we compared both self reporting and physiological monitoring - not just a change in the tolerance or ability to cope, but the hot flashes themselves decreased." Indeed, participants wore sensors on their skin which showed a 57% reduction in hot flashesamong the guided meditation/hypnosis group and a 10% reduction in the non-guided meditation/hypnosis group.

Now just weeks after Menopause published the latest Baylor study a Huffington Post article mentioned it as an after thought while describing a similar approach taken in a new Swedish study group using group relaxation therapy to produce similar results reducing hot flashes. Menopause has also published the Swedish study in its November issue. This explanation of applied relaxation is incredibly similar to the use of progressive muscle relaxation used in guided mediation or hypnotic induction right down to the importance of what is call the pre talk, a conversation prior to guided/meditation or hypnosis where questions and misconceptions are addressed and specifically building the subject's expectations for the effects of the relaxation suggestions that will follow.

Such setting and management of expectations is crucial in all clinical and medical hypnosis or guided meditations and goes a long way in explaining why many physical problems not necessarily caused in the mind may still be resolved there.