Pain, in simple terms, is a signal your physical body sends to your brain that something needs attention. You break your finger; the body has to send a signal to the brain that you are in some sort of danger. The brain receives the sensation of pain and will immediately get your attention, as it is sent to protect the body against further damage.
That is a fairly brief example, but this complex neurological communication system is important to understand. As ultimately, through hypnosis, you can begin to reprogram how this system works, to help you reduce chronic and acute pain.
What is the difference between acute and chronic pain?
Acute Pain is short-term and is often the result of tissue damage. For example, banging your thumb with a hammer is an example of very minor acute pain. But acute pain can also be significant. Such as surgery or the pain of childbirth are both good examples of acute pain.
Hypnosis is a very powerful tool for managing acute pain. For example, back in the 1950s, Dr Jack Gibson, an Irish surgeon, claimed to have performed more than 4,000 procedures free of anesthesia using hypnosis instead. (Using hypnosis Dr Gibson was able to induce trance in a young girl with bad acne scarring and quite simply sandpapered the top layer of skin away)
Chronic pain however is, is long-term, ongoing pain. Often, the aftermath of an injury or illness, chronic pain continues after the injury has healed. The body continues to signal the brain that’s something’s wrong. And over time, the body becomes more sensitive to these ongoing signals, which intensifies the pain sensation.
Chronic pain can also be related to a variety of conditions like headaches, arthritis, cancer, nerve pain, or back pain. Research has shown that hypnosis is a powerful tool for managing the intensity and severity of chronic pain, improving the ability to cope, and reduce the effect it has on your quality of life.
Pain and the Conscious Mind
Let’s say you bang your thumb with a hammer. The physical sensation would send the message to your brain. “There’s a problem here.”
Your brain would then start to process that sensory information (faster than any computer) cross-referencing it against all your previous experiences with thumbs and hammers, together with all your attitudes and beliefs, and BANG you feel “pain” at the finger.
Instead, it’s that complex neural network first sending the message that something’s not right, and then projecting the “pain” back down.
In other words, the pain you experience is a construct of your brain. When the brain receives messages about potential problems (whether a bang on the thumb, or a broken leg, etc.) it processes all of the information you have, and creates a sensation of pain. All of our attitudes, beliefs and expectations about what we will feel will affect the physical sensation of pain. If we expect it to hurt a lot, then be assured it will.
This point was brilliantly illustrated by pain researcher Lorimer Moseley. Moseley noted a study in which participants were asked to wear a device that they were told would cause a headache as the intensity of the machine increased. The participants could see the intensity knob being turned. The thing was: The machine wasn’t causing any pain, and delivered no stimulus.
However, all the participants reported feeling the most intense pain when the intensity knob was turned to maximum. They expected the pain to be greatest at the highest intensity, and therefore, imagined the pain in exactly the way they wanted.