Hypnotherapy for Pain Management

Hypnosis has been used for surgery as an anesthesia throughout history. Hypnotherapy can be used to allow the patient to cope more effectively with the debilitating effect of pain, back or joint, long or short term. Relief for 1-2 hours per day is all that some patients require. Others want to be able to put the pain out of their mind and go about their normal lives.

Unlike other pain medication, hypnosis has no side effects and can be combined with any medical / alternative treatment. Because of that, hypnotherapy offers a much preferred pain management tool for certain patients, such as pregnant women and other patients whose health could be compromised by the conventional pain killer medication.

How can hypnosis be used to alter someone’s perception of pain?

There are three main strategies. One is physical relaxation. When people are in pain, they are also often tense. Muscle tension tends to exacerbate the pain by pulling on the area that hurts. So rather than fighting the pain, if one can focus on an image that conveys relaxation, like floating, the pain can be reduced.

The second strategy is sensory alteration. You can actually change your perception of pain. For example, you can imagine that your hand that hurts is in a pool of cold ice water in an icy mountain stream. If you focus on the cool tingly numbness instead of the pain, you learn to filter the hurt out.

Another technique is distraction. You can focus on sensations in some other part of your body, and therefore reduce the attention you’re paying to the pain.

How often do you have to self-hypnotize to maintain pain relief?

I encourage my clients to do it for two to three minutes every one to three hours if they’ve got pain, and then anytime the pain starts to get worse. So it is a technique you can carry with you anywhere and use when you need it.

Research Findings

There is really solid evidence that self-hypnosis is helpful for pain reduction.

Elvira Lang, MD, at Harvard Medical School, did a trial involving 240 people who were having a painful invasive interventional radiology procedure that involved having little cameras inserted through the arteries. All participants were offered pain medication. One group was also offered training in self-hypnosis. Another group had a nurse assigned to them, but no training in self-hypnosis, and the third group had routine care.

The study showed that the patients who received the hypnosis training had far less pain and virtually no anxiety, whereas anxiety was going through the roof for the other patients. The hypnosis patients had fewer complications with the procedure. They used far less medication, and it took 17 minutes on average less time to get through the procedures. They were more comfortable, less anxious, had fewer problems and got out sooner.


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