If you are suffering from chronic pain and want relief, hypnosis can help.
Yet hypnotherapy isn’t always the first thing people want when in pain. Medication is the usual first choice as pain killers are easily available and are the usual line of treatment from your doctor. But anyone suffering from chronic pain will often choose hypnotherapy as a last resort for pain relief when they find that their usual medications aren’t controlling the pain.
This blog aims to answer the following questions.
- What is pain?
- How is hypnosis used for pain control?
- Is hypnosis really effective for pain management?
- What pain management problems do hypnotherapists help with?
- Does pain increase anxiety?
- What happens when a hypnotherapist helps with pain relief?
What is pain?
Pain is whatever the person says it is, but we know that it is unpleasant.
It has a physical and emotional component. It’s a sensation in the body that tells us that something isn’t right. Pain is an alert system to prevent further damage and to tell us to take notice. This is great when we have a sudden injury or a condition like arthritis flairs up but chronic pain can linger for months or even years after the injury so some pain isn’t helpful.
According to the British Pain Society, some types of pain serve no purpose.
Pain is real because neuroimaging shows areas of the brain that light up when someone is experiencing pain. Pain involves thoughts and feelings. However, what’s interesting is that these parts of the brain still show activity even when what was once an acute cut, burn or other bodily damage has healed. So the pain can be experienced independently from any injury
No one likes pain and it’s very subjective so difficult to know what someone else’s pain is actually like.
Pain can be described as sharp, burning, aching or stabbing. It can be intermittent or constant.
The pain usually gets defined by either its location, for example, back pain or nerve pain, or it can be generalised all over the body as with fibromyalgia.
It can also be classified as acute or chronic pain.
Acute pain is a sudden pain that is alerting us to danger and injury. It is usually a sharp pain that can last for minutes, days, or weeks. This type of pain is felt when breaking a leg or having an operation where there is an incision and damage to organs, blood vessels and muscles. Hypnotherapists generally do not deal with acute pain unless they are doctors or work closely with doctors.
However, hypnotherapy, before surgery can help people to reduce their anxiety surrounding the operation. Furthermore, visualisation of the area can also promote healing and postoperative pain reduction.
Chronic pain is pain that occurs more than three months or years after the injury or disease first occurred. With an injury often the body has gone through a healing process so there isn’t a bleeding wound or obvious evidence of the trauma. Chronic pain can be continuous or it can come and go.
Pain is complex. It can also be linked to cultural and social behaviours, beliefs, coping abilities and genetics.
The exact mechanism of how hypnosis works with pain management is not known.
Some people even get pain after amputation of a limb but the damaged limb isn’t there anymore. This is called phantom limb pain.
Sometimes people can have long term pain that doesn’t have an obvious cause. This is called functional pain.
How is hypnosis used for pain control?
The hypnotherapist listens to the problem, asks relevant questions and makes an assessment. Often clients will be asked to score the level of pain from 0 to 10, with 10 being the worst pain.
Then the hypnotherapist develops a treatment plan that fits with the client’s needs. Many different techniques can be used, for example, clients can learn to relax and imagine turning a dial to reduce the pain intensity or they can numb the pain. They may also need to be more confident to go back to work or make changes to their lives.
Many hypnotherapists teach clients how to do self-hypnosis so the treatment can be continued themselves or ask clients to listen to a hypnosis download between sessions.
Finally, the hypnotherapist delivers the hypnosis. This is often done by talking to the person using hypnotic language while the person just sits and listens. Clients do not become unconscious or go to sleep.
People will often need more than one session but it depends on many aspects and the feedback from the client.
Is hypnosis really effective for pain management?
Yes. Pain has been one of the most widely researched areas in hypnotherapy. The American Psychological Society supports the use of hypnosis for pain management.
Lots of studies have reviewed the effectiveness of hypnosis. For example, Montgomery et al (2000) reviewed 18 studies through a meta-analysis and found that hypnosis could reduce pain by 75%. Elkins et al (2007) examined studies and found that hypnosis was effective in decreasing pain. Ardigo et al (2016) showed that hypnosis was helpful in reducing pain for elderly people. Zech et al (2016) concluded that hypnosis was effective in pain management for people suffering from fibromyalgia. Thompson et al (2019) did a systematic review of 85 studies and concluded that hypnosis was an effective and safe alternative to medication for most people.
There is lots of evidence to support its use by a qualified hypnotherapist as hypnotherapists usually have training in their courses.
What pain management problems do hypnotherapists deal with?
Hypnotherapists can help with
- Back pain
- Joint pain
- Phantom limb pain
- Cancer pain
- Temporomandibular (jaw) pain
- Dental pain
Does pain increase anxiety?
Yes, it can, especially if the pain is not controlled or people fear that the pain will get worse.
Furthermore, pain can cause additional stress and anxiety because people may be restricted with movement and can’t deal with things in the way they want to.
People feel under pressure and that can give a sense of being out of control.
And this can have an impact on their work, relationships and lifestyle.
How to find out more.
If you are suffering from chronic pain your first step is always to discuss this with your doctor to ensure that there are no other reasons for the chronic pain. You can tell your doctor that you are seeking hypnotherapy and they may suggest some practitioners in the local area. Most hypnotherapists have private practices so it is unlikely that you will get hypnotherapy from the National Health Service.
Alternately you can get recommendations or search for a reputable hypnotherapist in your area.