Hypnosis is an excellent resource for anyone suffering from pain. According to Dr. Mark Jenkins of the UW Medical Center, “hypnosis is effective for reducing chronic daily pain. . . . as effective or more effective than medication or physical therapy.” (And there are NO side effects.)
What kind of benefits can you expect from hypnosis for pain?
In Hypnosis for Chronic Pain Management, Dr. Jenkins says most people report using a hypnosis recording for pain control provides relief for up to 6 hours.
For some, the pain mostly disappears during hypnosis. Other people notice that hypnosis affects how they react to pain. Most notice that they can be more relaxed and comfortable, and that leads to less pain and suffering.
Hypnosis can change how you think and feel about pain, and about the activities (like exercise, if that is indicated for you) that can help you in the long term. Hypnosis can also help with getting good sleep in spite of your pain.
Some other important things to know
If you choose to work with me to help you control your pain, you should first check with your doctor to make sure there are no medical reasons not to pursue hypnosis. I’d welcome the chance to discuss hypnosis for pain with your doctor if that’s desirable for you.
You don’t have to be deeply into a hypnotic state to benefit from hypnosis. You will be somewhere on the spectrum between fully aware and deeply in trance. And you will benefit no matter where you are on that spectrum.
How pain works
The simple feeling of pain is not simple: it’s the result of a complicated process that starts as a simple sensation—like pressure or temperature—that’s transformed into pain by the process of interpretation in various area of the brain. (There’s more than one pain center in the brain.)
First, sensors send the sensation signal through nerves toward the brain. In the spinal cord, nerve fibers send information about the sensation to the brain pass through an opening (the pain gate) that regulates how much information about the sensation gets passed on to the brain.
How much information gets through depends on what we’re paying attention to at that moment. When we are busy, distracted, or physically active, the gate opens just a little. When we are inactive, or we’re worried and monitoring that initial sensation, the gate opens wider. Once through the gate, the signal moves on to the thalamus, and then is routed to other areas of the brain, the sensory cortices, which track where the sensation is coming from and describe it for us, for example, that it’s hot, cold, sharp, etc. So now the brain has a little more information about how the sensation feels.
The information is then interpreted in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex, between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. This is where how we feel about the sensation enters the picture. If we are upset about the pain, the ACC is very active. If we are calm, the ACC is less active. In short, by controlling our emotional reaction to the sensation, we can change its severity:
- When the ACC is active, we perceive the sensation as painful and unpleasant.
- When it’s calm, we perceive the sensation as less intense. (In one study of biofeedback for chronic pain, participants reported a 44% decrease in the intensity of the pain.)
Note: This description of how pain works is based on my understanding of the description in Dr. Jenkins’s book; any errors are mine, not his.