Hypnosis for chronic pain relief

Aug 5, 2020Common Disorders, Hypnotherapy Information and Advice, Information

Hypnosis for chronic pain relief

Woman with back and shoulder pain

Get help for chronic pain

Recently a BBC news report highlighted new draft guidance from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidance that painkillers for chronic pain are not helpful and could even cause long term side effects. Antidepressants, acupuncture, exercise or psychological therapies were recommended instead. Hypnosis for chronic pain relief could be the answer.

If you suffer from chronic pain this information may leave you feeling fed up, stressed and anxious and wondering what you can do next. You know that the painkillers helped when you first had the problem but you are now taking more and more tables. Maybe you are also suffering from some of the side effects like constipation when you take such large quantities of painkillers. You keep going back to see your doctor, which is the right thing to do, but feel that the pain is now stopping you from getting on with your life. Rest assured you are not alone.

According to the British Pain Society 

Chronic pain affects more than two fifths of the UK population, meaning that around 28 million adults are living with pain that has lasted for three months or longer.

They call it the Silent Epidemic.

Chronic pain is real. It doesn’t mean you have a mental health problem and it doesn’t mean that you are not feeling the pain. What is happening is that the messages that your brain is giving you are incorrect because your brain is matching the previous acute pain experiences with how you are feeling now.

But chronic pain is awful. All you want is to be pain-free.

This blog discusses hypnosis for chronic pain relief as an effective complementary therapy for dealing with chronic pain.

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain is defined as pain that has existed for longer than three months after an injury or acute disease when no the area has healed or no cause found.

You have chronic pain if

  1.   It’s been diagnosed by a doctor
  2. It affects your life
  3. You have had it for longer than three months
  4. Any physical trauma has healed

Chronic pain is complex and it can also involve psychological and social aspects of a persons life.

Types of chronic pain


Some injuries or operations start with acute pain and then become chronic pain after the area has healed. Some people also experience emotional pain and that can be traumatic.

Muscular-skeletal pain

Long term conditions such as arthritis will result in chronic pain. The pain can be in one or several joints and people can get headaches and muscular pain. The Arthritis Foundation states that studies have shown that people get 75% pain relief with arthritis and fibromyalgia, so they support hypnosis as a treatment for arthritis.

Other muscular chronic pain problems include back pain, fibromyalgia and temporomandibular conditions.


Many cancers can cause pain but following surgery or treatments, there may be additional chronic pain.

Other disabilities and diseases

People with some physical disabilities may experience chronic pain from contracted muscles. Sickle cell disease can also result in chronic pain all over the body.

What are the effects of chronic pain?

If you have been suffering with chronic pain for a long time you may have low mood or depression, anxiety disorders, or muscle weakness as you are reluctant to exercise. It can cause relationship problems, social problems as you may not want to go out, and lifestyle issues. This can have a big impact on quality of life (see the comprehensive review by Dwenas et al 2016)

What is hypnosis?

Hypnosis uses the power of your mind through focused attention and positive suggestions to influence change.

It’s a natural state of consciousness.

History of hypnosis for pain relief

Hypnosis has been used in different forms for hundreds of years. Ancient cultures used it.

In the 1840s James Esdaile, a Scottish surgeon, performed thousands of operations in India under hypnosis. At that time hypnosis was popular as there were no other ways to relieve pain.

In modern-day treatments, hypnosis is used to manage pain and anxiety in dentistry, for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) pain, burns pain, and in cancer care and more.

Does hypnosis work?

Yes. there is lots of scientific evidence that hypnosis is effective in helping people with chronic pain. its much more than a placebo as fMRI scans have shown activity in the brain when someone is hypnotised.  Elkins et al 2009 reviewed studies on a variety of types of pain and found that hypnosis helped all types of pain.

Further support comes from the American Psychological Association who state that

Hypnosis is likely to be effective for most people suffering from diverse forms of pain, with the possible exception of a minority of patients who are resistant to hypnotic interventions.

What does a hypnotherapist do to relieve pain?

The hypnotist does an assessment to find out if you are suitable for hypnosis. They will then ask you questions about your health and the pain including the severity of the pain. Everything should be explained and you will agree to a number of sessions, usually weekly, at an agreed price.

You will listen during the hypnosis. Some people sit in a chair and sometimes you may lie on a bed: anywhere where you are comfortable.

The hypnotherapist uses hypnotic language to help you change your state to that trance-like state called hypnosis. There are many different ways to go into hypnosis. Lots of people think about dangling watches. Although it is possible to hypnotise someone with a watch there are many more common ways of inducing trance.

Once hypnotised you are not asleep. Most people feel relaxed and daydreamy. Positive suggestions are then delivered to help you make the changes that you want to make. this can be through storytelling, imagery, visualisation, relaxation or dissociation techniques. Additional suggestions might include confidence building, ego strengthening and building resilience. Some times special techniques will be used for pain management.

At the end of the session, you will be re-orientated and will be alert and feeling good. For some people, the pain will go immediately, while other people take a few sessions. Although every client is different, according to the literature, four to ten sessions in usual.

How do I find a hypnotherapist to help with chronic pain?

There are lots of ways to find a qualified hypnotherapist.

  1. Do a general search through a search engine on the web. The advantage of this is that you will find many hypnotherapists around the world and in your location. You can also look for experts in the field. The disadvantage is that you only have the information to go on that is provided by their website unless they are registered elsewhere.
  2. Through professional membership organisations. The advantage if the membership sites is that the hypnotherapist will have their credentials checked.
  3. Through searching therapy directories. Some directories will have checked credentials others might not. Disadvantages are that they may not be up to date.
  4. Recommendations and testimonials. Although this is a good way of getting a therapist the therapist might not be the best ‘fit’ for you.
  5. Ask your doctor or healthcare professional.

Always ask questions when you are deciding on a hypnotherapist and do your own checks on the person you choose.  Look for an established hypnotherapist who you feel comfortable and confident with. Ask for a free initial consultation.

Awaken the Change offers hypnosis and counselling for chronic pain relief online or face to face in Bournemouth. For a free initial consultation contact me through my website and get a free initial consultation when you can ask questions.

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Awaken the Change is about Focusing Minds for Positive Results

Awaken the Change is a self-help service providing education and information.

Linda sees clients at her practice in Bournemouth, in the UK. She is also happy to provide online help via webcam for hypnotherapy, counselling and supervision. Counselling and supervision can also be provided by telephone.

Linda is an accredited trainer and supervisor.

Linda Witchell
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