– Evening Chronicle –
Nov 24 2008
by Helen Rae
THE power of hypnosis is being used for the first time in Tyneside to help control symptoms in patients with motor neurone disease.
HYPNOTHERAPY can at times, be associated with showmen peddling silly pranks in front of packed-out theatres. But this holistic therapy can be an alternative form of health treatment, which is said to use the healing powers of the mind to help tackle a whole host of medical problems.
And for the first time in Tyneside, hypnosis is being used to help those live with debilitating motor neurone disease (MND).
Lisa Cairns, clinical hypnotist at Newcastle’s St Oswald’s Hospice, is currently carrying out a PhD to look at the use of hypnosis in controlling symptoms in patients with the condition.
Her study involves helping patients control their saliva secretions, a common symptom of MND. Since qualifying as a hypnotist in 2002, Lisa, of Woodside, Ryton, has helped as many as 10 people alleviate their symptoms of MND and curb their saliva problems by the use of hypnotherapy.
The 39-year-old said: “The original idea to use hypnosis for MND came from a patient who had tried medication and radiotherapy to control one of her salivary glands, with little benefit. MND patients produce normal amounts of saliva, but in some patients the disease impairs swallowing, which causes the saliva to spill out of the mouth instead of being swallowed.
“The use of hypnosis could appear to be an unusual approach, but dentists trained in clinical hypnosis use this technique to dry the mouth to allow them to carry out procedures. We also know from existing research that hypnosis can influence the autonomic nervous system, which controls saliva production.
“As far as I’m aware, there is nowhere else in the world using hypnotherapy to treat MND patients. “Most people have only heard of hypnosis on TV, so when a patient is first referred they often have many misconceptions and worries about losing control. They soon realise, however, that clinical hypnosis actually helps them to take control of their saliva secretions, which in turn can help with their self-esteem and improve their quality of life, as they are more willing to try new activities.”
Using hypnosis for MND can help patients gain confidence to continue with their everyday lives as well as relieving the stress, embarrassment and anxiety caused by their condition.
Mum-of-one Christine O’Neil, 46, a former mail order manager, was diagnosed with MND in May last year. She said: “After many tests and scans and, when all other possibilities were eventually ruled out, I was given a diagnosis of MND. During that time I had an MRI scan, looking for a tumour that could possibly account for my symptoms. I found myself hoping they found one because at least that would give me a chance of a cure, whereas there is no cure for MND.
“When I was given the diagnosis, and with a very short shelf life, my priorities changed. I wanted to make the most of however long I had – holidays, golfing for as long as I am able, visiting friends and removing all forms of stress from my life.
“The statistics are pretty grim for MND, with 50% of all people diagnosed dying within 18 months. I have a form called progressive bulbar palsy and the average life expectancy is between six months and three years – thankfully I’m still going strong.”
She added: “One of the problems I had, before hypnosis, was playing golf.
“When addressing the ball for a shot, I would stand over it and I used to occasionally drool as I looked down – it was so embarrassing. I have a weak lip seal so it can be uncomfortable, sometimes impossible, to keep my mouth closed tightly enough to prevent leakage.
“Thankfully, the hypnosis has greatly lessened the problem, by reducing the saliva, and leaving me to concentrate on my game.
“For me it’s not just about everyday activities, it’s also about having the confidence to do more without feeling uncomfortable or self conscious around people that aren’t familiar with MND or the socially unacceptable symptoms.”
Christine had tried medication to help curb her symptoms, but she suffered uncomfortable side effects and decided to look for alternative treatment.
“It was at the MND clinic at the RVI where it was suggested that I give the hypnosis a try,” she explained.
“I have an open mind and as I studied psychology with the Open University. I could see how there might be some benefit. I didn’t notice any significant improvement immediately, but as my sessions continued it gradually started to kick in.
“I find that the benefits can last for a few hours now. The effects are now immediate after having a session. I would definitely recommend the treatment to anyone with this condition and excess saliva is a very common problem for people with bulbar symptoms.”
Mum-of-two Lisa added: “The challenge clinically has been to develop a treatment programme using hypnosis that can not only reduce saliva, but also to be able to work with individual patients to teach them how to apply the hypnosis in their everyday activities.”
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