Fifteen patients with the irritable bowel syndrome were studied to assess the effect of hypnotherapy on anorectal physiology. In comparison with a control group of 15 patients who received no hypnotherapy significant changes in rectal sensitivity were found in patients with diarrhoea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome both after a course of hypnotherapy and during a session of hypnosis (p less than 0.05). Although patient numbers were small, a trend towards normalisation of rectal sensitivity was also observed in patients with constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome. No changes in rectal compliance or distension-induced motor activity occurred in either subgroup nor were any changes in somatic pain thresholds observed. The results suggest that symptomatic improvement in irritable bowel syndrome after hypnotherapy may in part be due to changes in visceral sensitivity.
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