Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 32, Issue 10, pp 1106–1113 | Cite as

Randomized Controlled Trial of Brief Mindfulness Training and Hypnotic Suggestion for Acute Pain Relief in the Hospital Setting

  • Eric L. Garland
  • Anne K. Baker
  • Paula Larsen
  • Michael R. Riquino
  • Sarah E. Priddy
  • Elizabeth Thomas
  • Adam W. Hanley
  • Patricia Galbraith
  • Nathan Wanner
  • Yoshio Nakamura
Original Research



Medical management of acute pain among hospital inpatients may be enhanced by mind-body interventions.


We hypothesized that a single, scripted session of mindfulness training focused on acceptance of pain or hypnotic suggestion focused on changing pain sensations through imagery would significantly reduce acute pain intensity and unpleasantness compared to a psychoeducation pain coping control. We also hypothesized that mindfulness and suggestion would produce significant improvements in secondary outcomes including relaxation, pleasant body sensations, anxiety, and desire for opioids, compared to the control condition.


This three-arm, parallel-group randomized controlled trial conducted at a university-based hospital examined the acute effects of 15-min psychosocial interventions (mindfulness, hypnotic suggestion, psychoeducation) on adult inpatients reporting “intolerable pain” or “inadequate pain control.” Participants (N = 244) were assigned to one of three intervention conditions: mindfulness (n = 86), suggestion (n = 73), or psychoeducation (n = 85).

Key Results

Participants in the mind-body interventions reported significantly lower baseline-adjusted pain intensity post-intervention than those assigned to psychoeducation (p < 0.001, percentage pain reduction: mindfulness = 23%, suggestion = 29%, education = 9%), and lower baseline-adjusted pain unpleasantness (p < 0.001). Intervention conditions differed significantly with regard to relaxation (p < 0.001), pleasurable body sensations (p = 0.001), and desire for opioids (p = 0.015), but all three interventions were associated with a significant reduction in anxiety (p < 0.001).


Brief, single-session mind-body interventions delivered by hospital social workers led to clinically significant improvements in pain and related outcomes, suggesting that such interventions may be useful adjuncts to medical pain management.

Trial registration

Trial Registry:; registration ID number: NCT02590029



acute pain analgesia hypnosis mindfulness non-opioid therapy opioid 



E.L.G. and Y.N. were supported during the preparation of this manuscript by grant numbers R01DA042033 and R61AT009296 from the National Institutes of Health (PI: Garland). We would also like to acknowledge the following social workers for their assistance with the study: Rebecca Ablad, Mary Andolsek, Reyna Barragan, Lisa Boice, Lora Bonham, Ann Cook, Drue Didier, Andrea Gomes, Stephen Hoffman, Sarah Leymaster, Lindsey Painter, Kristen Quinn, Suzy Ricker, Nate Rose, Amanda Russell, and Heather Smith.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they do not have a conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric L. Garland
    • 1
  • Anne K. Baker
    • 1
  • Paula Larsen
    • 2
  • Michael R. Riquino
    • 1
  • Sarah E. Priddy
    • 1
  • Elizabeth Thomas
    • 1
  • Adam W. Hanley
    • 1
  • Patricia Galbraith
    • 2
  • Nathan Wanner
    • 3
  • Yoshio Nakamura
    • 1
  1. 1.Center on Mindfulness and Integrative Health Intervention Development (C-MIIND)University of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.Social Work DepartmentUniversity of Utah HospitalSalt Lake CityUSA
  3. 3.Department of Internal MedicineUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

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