John Teleska, M.Ed., NBCCH

Integrative Medicine Department, Clifton Springs Hospital &
Private Practice, Pittsford, NY (near Rochester)

Hypnosis for Relief from Migraine Headache

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"I haven't had a full-blown headache since we started this."

—B.G., client

"I no longer worry about when the next headache will come.
And if I start to get one, just relaxing usually gets rid of it;
if not, I take medication, which is more effective than it was
before these sessions."

—L.Z., client

In my experience
My clinical experience is consistent with what research reports (see "What studies say," below). For the many people suffering from migraines with whom I've worked, 1) at least two thirds learn to decrease the frequency and intensity of their headaches using self-hypnosis; 2) many cease to get migraines all together; and 3) medications, if used, are effective in lower doses.

I suffered migraines for nearly 30 years starting at age 11. As I learned more about my own emotional responsivity that triggered these headaches, they diminished. Now, once or twice a year I get the distorted peripheral vision that for me, signal the onset of a migraine. At this point I do self-hypnosis. I haven't had a migraine headache for more than 10 years. Some people naturally "outgrow" migraines; for me, I think it was a combination of knowing myself better, self-hypnosis, and my body chemistry changing as I've aged.

Each person learns to gain relief in their own way using hypnosis as a tool. For example, clients for whom TMJ is the primary trigger learn to carry less tension in their jaw while they sleep. Others learn to use self-hypnosis in a way that releases habitually carried tensions that seem to function as a trigger. For some, it is less clear the mechanisms within them that is engaged by our work, but we know something shifted: their migraines lessen or simply stop occurring.

"I had the beginning symptoms of a migraine and it never actually came. I don't remember that ever happening before."

—K.S., client

What studies say
Over the past 30 years, gaining relief from migraine headache has been one of the most frequently and rigorously studied applications of clinical hypnosis. Summarizing the studies' conclusions:

1. More than 70% of migraine sufferers learn to decrease the frequency and intensity of their headaches using self- and facilitated-hypnosis
2. Hypnotherapy is equivalent to or better than medications and/or biofeedback
3. Hypnosis is virtually free of the side effects, risks of adverse reactions, and ongoing expense associated with medications
4. Hypnotherapy for migraine relief meets the clinical research criteria for being a well established and efficacious treatment
5. Typically, 4 to 8 sessions are sufficient for the client to accomplish gaining significant relief
6. Patients have maintained their improvements on their own at six month follow-up.
(Taken from C. Hammond's 2007 "Review of the efficacy of clinical hypnosis with headaches and migraines." Supporting research includes: Anderson (1975); Olness (1987); Emmerson (1999); Andreychuk (1975); Spanos (1993); and ter Kuile (1994). see Bibliography, below.)

"Last week I drove several hours to see my parents.
I hadn't done that for two years for fear of getting a migraine.
Everything was fine!"

—S.I., client

"You created a space of trust and acceptance that allowed me to find out how I might not have these headaches. In discovering that, I've learned to accept myself in ways I never had before."

—S.O., client

"I don't get as many [migraines] and they're not as bad.
I still carry tension in my jaw, but not as much.
I've learned to be more relaxed, more centered."

—M.G., client

Bibliography: Hypnosis for relief from migraine headache


Anderson, J. A. D., Basker, M. D., & Dalton, R. (1975). Migraine and hypnotherapyThe International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 23, 48-58.


Andreychuk, T, & Skriver, C. (1975). Hypnosis and biofeedback in the treatment of migraine headache. The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 23, 172-183.


Emmerson, G. H., & Trexler, G. (1999). An hypnotic intervention for migraine control. Australian Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 27, 54-61.


Hammond, D. C. (2007). Review of the efficacy of clinical hypnosis with headaches and migraines. The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 55(2), 207-219.


Olness, K., MacDonald, J. T., & Uden, D. L. (1987). Comparison of self-hypnosis and propranolol in the treatment of juvenile classic migraine. Pediatrics, 79, 593-597.


Spanos, N. P., et al. (1993). Hypnotic suggestion and placebo for the treatment of chronic headache in a university volunteer sample. Cognitive Therapy & Research, 17, 191-205.

 Contact information

John Teleska, M.Ed.
(585) 264-9497

 Office Locations

38 Parkridge Drive
Pittsford, NY 14534
SE of Rochester by Powder Mill Park near Bushnell’s Basin exit 27 of I-490
Integrative Medicine Department
Clifton Springs Hospital
2 Coulter Road
Clifton Springs, NY 14432
between Canandaigua and Geneva,
New York

Copyright © 2014 by John Teleska. All rights reserved. Updated 7/7/16.