Hypnosis empowers us to reframe our thoughts and expectations about pain. Thus, we can use hypnosis to reprogram how your mind responds to the “signal,” to have different expectations, to distract us from these sensations, to reframe them more positively, or to completely switch them off.
Using Hypnosis to Reframe Pain
The mind is stubborn. We have during our lives built and reinforced our beliefs, attitudes and expectations over a lifetime, and that’s true about how the mind thinks about pain.
When we stub a toe, we have expectations about how bad it will hurt, attitudes about how we should feel, and believe we will feel pain. Hypnosis works by unlocking and releasing those preconceived notions and allows us to work directly with the subconscious mind the part of the brain that controls the pain response. Through hypnosis, we can provide it with new and more effective ways of responding to pain stimulus.
For example, a chronic pain sufferer expects pain to persist and has an attitude that it won’t go away. This anxiety, in turn, activates the pain response. Those signals fire off regularly, and the pain persists. Hypnosis can then help the chronic pain sufferer to first recognize this unconscious response early, and empower them to understand how to use the unconscious and reduce the feeling of pain.
Hypnosis helps in two ways. Relaxation and perceptual alteration. First, by going into a hypnotic trance, the body relaxes. This reduces muscle tension a pain intensifier.
Once in a relaxed state, hypnotic suggestions will help to alter your perception of the pain sensation. A good hypnotherapist will use many techniques to alter perception tailored to the individual. Four of the most common and effective techniques include distraction, reframing, numbing and dissociation.
While serving in Northern Ireland one of our men had been shot in the shoulder, he was so preoccupied with what was going on he was able to return fire and run over 500 yards, before realising he had been wounded, such was the intensity of the distraction of the moment.
When we are distracted we can reduce or (as in the above case) completely push it from our thoughts. During hypnosis, we can ask the subconscious to think about other areas of the body or to imagine past experiences free of pain. By distracting the unconscious away from the pain, we can reduce or completely eliminate it and over time, by using distraction we can train the mind to alleviate pain.
Reframing: Pain hurts. That’s the sensation that we feel. But what if we could alter our perception of the sensation. What if that feeling of hurt, could be transformed into a sensation of numbness?
That’s the basic idea of reframing: Altering how the mind perceives pain sensations. The “father of modern hypnotherapy” Milton Erickson, for instance, once helped a motorcyclist who’d been in an accident reframe the “burning” pain he was feeling, into a lukewarm and ultimately a cool sensation. Hypnosis provides direct access to the subconscious where these sensations are formulated. Once a hypnotherapist accesses the subconscious, they can feed it with suggestions that override previous thoughts (that is to reframe your perception).
Numbing: What if you could apply a numbing sensation to any affected area? What if you could perceive numbing to reduce pain? That’s very possible in deep hypnosis.
Hypnosis is a lot like REM sleep the point in the sleep cycle when you begin to dream. As such, we feel a disconnect with the conscious mind. Numbing requires us to first remember a time we felt numbness, such as, after a dental injection or after holding an ice cube for too long. The hypnotherapist can suggest that this numbness spread to the afflicted area, helping to reduce or dull the sensation of pain.
Dissociation: Dentists will ask their patients to think about a good memory and “to go there,” while they perform a particularly painful procedure. This idea is similar to hypnotic dissociation. With dissociation, we ask ourselves to either, separate the painful area from the body or, to imagine an out-of-body experience.
This allows us to dissociate ourselves from the pain, and remove it, and over time, using this technique whether during one to one or self-hypnosis we can begin to gain control over the sensation and replace it with what we experience during dissociation.
All of these techniques have one thing in common: They allow us to process pain differently. When that signal shoots up to the brain, these techniques help to reprogram the natural, automatic response, and we’re able to reduce, numb, or experience pain in a different, more helpful way.
Does It Work?
Hypnosis for pain management might be the most researched areas of the field. High-quality scientific testing and trials have been performed for all types of pain, Back pain hypnotherapy, Hypno-anaesthesia for surgery, chronic pain hypnosis. You have a pain issue, then it’s been researched, and the evidence of efficacy is extremely compelling.
Numerous studies have shown a significant reduction of pain acknowledge for participants who have used hypnotherapy. Up to 75% in many trials show significant pain reduction, using hypnosis. Here is a sampling of hypnosis for a variety of different areas of chronic and acute pain:
Surgical Pain. A 2016 review of research founded that in a majority of studies hypnosis was shown to reduce procedural pain and that hypnotic anaesthetic (similar to what Dr Gibson used) was effective for minor procedures. Similarly, hypnosis has been shown to reduce bleeding and improve wound healing post-surgery, leading to faster recovery.
Another study, published in the journal Neurosurgery looked at how hypno sedation could help during awake brain procedures. The results: Hypnosis helped to reduce the impact of unpleasant parts of the surgery, help patients remain calm, and the pain was reduced.
Another recent study looked at using hypnosis for pain relief, following surgical procedures. The findings: Just a 15-minute hypnosis session resulted in a decrease in perceived pain similar to what you’d expect from opiate medication, patients reported an average of 29% reduction in perceived pain.
Back Pain. Chronic back pain is without doubt one of the most non-surgical causes of long term pain, and it’s a primary contributor to disability. Researchers have found a strong relationship between hypnosis and a reduction in back pain. A 2015 study examined how hypnosis could help OAP’s with back pain reduced the pain intensity. The results: Hypnosis significantly helped improve the quality of life and reduce pain intensity. More than 50% of participants reported a meaningful pain reduction that lasted longer than 6 months.
A 1983 study also found that self-hypnosis could reduce pain intensity, help improve sleep, and resulted in reduced medication following treatment.
Cancer. Ongoing cancer treatment often results in recurring and lasting pain, and treatment procedures themselves can be highly painful. Research has looked at both aspects: Pain caused by individual treatments, as well as ongoing and recurring pain.
In 1983, David Spiegel, a preeminent hypnotherapy researcher, examined how hypnosis could help breast cancer patients manage pain caused by treatment. Over the course of a year, patients who received self-hypnosis training were able to report significant reductions in pain and suffering, (although the duration and frequency of episodes didn’t change). Spiegel’s research did suggest hypnosis can be a powerful tool for pain management during cancer treatments.
Similarly, many individual treatments cause patient distress, anxiety and pain. A 1982 study examined if hypnosis before these treatments could help to reduce pain and anxiety. During bone marrow and lumbar puncture procedures, participants who utilized hypnosis reported significantly less pain.
Arthritis. In 2002, researchers conducted a study looking at the effect of three interventions of osteoarthritic pain: Hypnosis, relaxation and no treatment. Participants who received hypnosis 8 weekly hypnosis sessions reported a long-lasting and significant reduction in pain, even at the 4- and 6-month mark. Hypnosis was as effective as relaxation, which could suggest that a program of hypnosis with relaxation techniques could be a powerful option for arthritic pain.
Birth and Labor Pain. Hypnosis for labour pain offers two benefits. It can help reduce the intensity of pain during labour, and it can reduce the need for narcotics and analgesics for pain relief during labour. A 2004 systematic review looked at roughly 20 studies looking, finding that hypnosis helped to reduce pain intensity, as well as reduce opioid and analgesic use for relief.
If you have any questions about how hypnosis can help you manage pain please email or call… there is no such thing as a silly question