Better than the WebMD story, this story was strong in several regards.
This story uses absolute reduction numbers to quantify the benefits of therapeutic hypnosis, which gives a more helpful perspective of the study’s findings. It also does a good job in comparing the various alternatives available for postmenopausal women suffering from hot flashes. However, we yearned for some expert perspective to give context to the numbers.
Menopause is a normal life event for women, but the symptoms can interfere with sleep and other function. Safe and effective therapies without bothersome side effects are important advances.
The story does not detail the costs of the weekly sessions of therapeutic hypnosis, which are likely to be high. But if the woman can learn the technique and use it herself over several years, it may be more cost effective than medication. This is what makes the cost consideration worth mentioning.
This story used absolute reduction numbers, instead of relative risk figures. The WebMD story and the press release led with how hypnosis could help cut hot flashes by as much as 74%. But the LA Times writes, “The frequency of hot flashes in the hypnotherapy group dropped by 48% at six weeks and 56% at 12 weeks, compared to drops of 7% and 13% at six and 12 weeks, respectively. among those in the trial’s control condition.” That does a better job putting the benefits of the therapy into perspective.
Some aspects of the data presentation were still confusing, especially since there is no explanation at the end of the article regarding all the numbers. For example, what is the exact difference between “drop in frequency of hot flashes” versus “improvement in severity and frequency of hot flashes?” And how was improvement measured?
Nonetheless, because the story gave readers detailed views of what the study found, we think it earns a satisfactory grade.
The story states that hypnosis comes with no known risks, unlike hormone replacement therapy.
There is no critical analysis of the study in the article. It would have been helpful to comment on the small sample size and short duration of the study. And although the study was randomized, it was not double-blind. And how long did the effects last? Was there any “decay” in the effectiveness over time? Would patients have to undergo hypnosis for the rest of their lives to experience fewer hot flashes? The menopausal transition, with the hot flashes (called “vasomotor symptoms”) can last for several years.
The story does not engage in disease mongering.
There are no quotations in the story, only reporting on what appeared in the journal Menopause. There are no comments from independent sources and also no mention of conflicts of interest.
The story does a thorough job in comparing alternatives. It mentions the effectiveness and side effects of hormone replacement therapy and even cites the results of the Women’s Health Initiative. It also talks about other medications used to treat hot flashes and other alternative therapies, such as yoga, acupuncture, qi gong and meditation. However, the effectiveness of the other alternative therapies is not proven (beyond small, short term, and often un-blinded studies).
Like the WebMD story, the LA Times story wasn’t clear whether a clinician could conduct the self-hypnosis trainings, or whether the patient needed to find another certified professional. And how were the hypnotic recordings obtained? Readers need to know if their “local” hypnotherapist can do this.
The article mentions that alternative therapies are not new and says that hypnosis “is among the many non-drug treatments to which women turn for hot flash relief.”
There is no evidence that this story relies on a press release.