Learn to Manage your Pain with Hypnosis

The sensation of pain varies greatly from one person to the next.  Many of the factors are not coming from the actual pain receptors, like-the  fear of death or financial ruin, previous experiences and associations with pain, lack of control, what the pain signifies, and anxiety. These all are located in the brain. While medical treatment can cure and treat the actual injury or disease, hypnosis can offer relief from these secondary emotional and psychological conditions.

Through therapeutic imagery and visualizations, combined with long-established relaxation techniques, we teach and coach clients to diminish their sensation of pain and regain a sense of control. They learn to transform or displace it, to direct their attention away from it, and gain tools to directly decrease their perception of it. Many of these techniques have been widely used for childbirth, now many are using them to reduce their fears of medical procedures and needles, restore their sleep, and depend less on pain medications.

Not only can individuals learn to use their own minds to block the pathway carrying pain messages from the site of injury to the brain, but also to change brain chemistry, releasing endorphins and serotonin.

My pain management clients use these tools for both acute pain due to injury, illness or surgery and for chronic pain.  Many times it is appropriate to experience “signal” pain, so hypnosis can create an analgesic effect, relieving anxiety and relaxing the muscles. But, it is especially valuable for chronic pain, since often pain medication is the only treatment available. Besides the risk of addiction, patients often hesitate to take it, due to grogginess and other side effects that may interfere with effectiveness and safety on the job.  In some situations, after diagnosis and treatment, a more complete anesthetic effect is appropriate.

Some additional benefits include lower patient pre-operative anxiety, fewer post-surgical complications and nausea, less need for drugs, less bleeding during surgery, and faster recovery time. Since the 1950’s thousands of people have undergone surgery with no anesthetic other than hypnosis, so it definitely can help you cope with such ailments as chronic back pain, headaches, fibromyalgia, burns, arthritis, and shingles.

Combination of Hypnosis and Local Anesthesia Provides Benefits

A recent presentation at the European Anaesthesiology Congress, in Amsterdam, showed significant benefits of combining hypnosis with a local anesthetic.  “We can reduce the costs involved in longer hospital stays, remove the need for patients to use opioid drugs, and increase their overall comfort and satisfaction levels.”

The conclusion was based on a studies using the combination for both breast cancer and thyroid surgeries, but presenters suggested that it would be just as beneficial for a “wide range of additional procedures, including carotid artery surgery, knee arthroscopy, gynecological surgery, plastic surgery and egg retrieval for fertility treatment.”

For more information on the use of hypnosis in medical treatment, go to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Unlearning Pain

When you are experiencing pain, it’s hard to accept that much of the sensation may be artificial. Yet, neurologist Ramachandran’s work with those with phantom pain from limbs that were no longer there, has shown how pain is actually an “illusion.” Through therapy with mirrors and visualization exercises, patients were able to diminish their experience of pain dramatically.

Pain specialists now believe that messages of pain travel from the site of damaged tissue through the nervous system through several “gates” before reaching the brain. The sensation can be blocked at many points. Even after reaching the brain, a gate can be closed and endorphins released, providing the body’s own pain killers.

Explaining the amazing statement, that “pain is an illusion,” Ramachandran says that

Our mind is a ‘virtual reality machine,’ which experiences the world indirectly an processes it at one remove, constructing a model in our head. So pain, like the body image, is a construct of our brain. (Quoted in The Brain that Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge, MD).

fMRI brain scans also show how with the use of a placebo, the brain can turn down its own pain-responsive regions.

This fascinating work demonstrates why hypnosis is so effective for pain management.  Either by working with a hypnotherapist or by learning self-hypnosis, clients can learn to manipulate their experience of pain, freeing themselves from the need to rely so heavily on pain medications.

Pain Relief in Your Own Mind

We already have what it takes to manage pain within our own brains, especially with a little coaching. Through your life you have had many experiences of the natural way that you automatically desensitize yourself to discomfort.  Think about the first time you wore glasses, a watch or a ring, and how you were constantly aware of the sensation and would fiddle with them. Soon, you got to the place where you weren’t aware of them anymore. With practice, you can learn to intensify this same effect, creating your own analgesia, as you need it, without pain meds and their risk of side effects and addiction. This is just one of many approaches to deal with pain that your hypnotherapist can teach you.

Everyone’s experience of pain is increased by anxiety, fears, and our association of what the pain signifies. For instance a severe pain in the abdomen can be a sign that stomach cancer has returned and will be felt in very different ways than a woman who is excited about having her first child. Soldiers on the battlefield may hardly feel a severe injury, compared to a villager whose home has been destroyed. The soldier knows that his injury means that he will be going home with honor, while the villager has lost everything and sees nothing but doom ahead. In an altered state of deep relaxation you can learn to decrease the anxiety and create new associations.

Many parents were exposed to hypnotic techniques through the Lamaze Childbirth without Pain method of the ‘60s.  Proponents later dropped the “without pain” phrase, because, of course, women had pain, but they were still able to give birth without the dangers of anesthesia. Many of those same techniques are helpful tools in self-hypnosis, like the breathwork, distraction, and visualization.

Through hypnosis your brain chemistry actually changes. You can learn to activate the release of natural pain killers and calming agents. A recent study at UCLA showed that pain can be reduced just by looking at a photo of a loved one.

Some people say that they have such a strong will that they aren’t sure that they can be hypnotized. Actually, those with good powers of concentration can enter the hypnotic state very easily. Dr. Steve Gurgevich states in fact, that “all hypnosis is self-hypnosis.”

Here is his definition-

Hypnosis is a type of relaxed or passive concentration that enables us to become so absorbed and focused on our own ideas that we can exclude or minimize the energy we give to the other things going on around us. I particularly like the analogy of using our mind as a magnifying glass to focus and concentrate our ideas and thoughts so that our subconscious mind receives them clearly and accepts them.

Take a look at this  amazing 4-minute video to see what we can do with our own  minds-

The Power of the Placebo Effect