Easing pain with hypnosis is something that I have been studying and teaching to clients since 1997 when I went into private practice. Chronic pain affects 100 million people in the United States and costs up to $630 billion each year in treatments and lost productivity, according to a 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM). For many, pain digs in and cuts deep. A 2012 survey funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) found that some 25.3 million U.S. adults — 11.2 percent — had been in pain every day for the preceding three months, and nearly 40 million experienced severe pain.
Hypnosis pain control has been used for chronic pain for hundreds of years, and more and more studies are coming out demonstrating its effectiveness. Research shows that hypnosis for pain can reduce daily background pain intensity for many people. Well-documented clinical trials in people with disabilities have demonstrated that hypnotherapy for chronic pain has specific effects on pain intensity over and above effects based on placebo (expectancy) alone.
Psychologists are exploring complementary therapies and integrated approaches to better treat the complex problem of chronic pain.
American Psychological Association, by Stacy Lu, November 2015, Vol 46, No. 10, Print version: page 66:
The promise of hypnosis
Studies using brain-imaging technology, such as fMRI, PET and EEE, have shown that the experience of chronic pain involves multiple brain areas. As Northwestern University neuroscientist Apkar Vania Apkarian, PhD, wrote in Pain Management in 2011, while acute pain generally activates the somatosensory, insular and cingulate cortical regions, chronic pain primarily activates the prefrontal cortex and limbic systems, areas related to emotion and self-reflection. Also, different types of pain activate different patterns of activity.
Several studies have proven that different hypnotic suggestions can reach all of the brain areas involved in pain processing, an ability that is a boon for treating such a complex problem, according to Jensen and his colleague David Patterson, PhD, at the University of Washington, in a 2014 review in American Psychologist. Brain scans show that suggestions to decrease pain intensity draw a response in some regions, while suggestions that increase acceptance of pain — perhaps by encouraging patients to examine it from a distance or realize that it is temporary — will register in others.
“Hypnosis is one of the most promising things we can offer to retrain the brain’s pain response,” says Patterson.
In addition to pain relief, many study participants report that after hypnosis they experienced such benefits as better sleep, increased relaxation and more energy. Self-hypnosis — and suggestions that it will lead to comfort on demand — help patients practice therapy on their own time.
“These are treatments where patients are taught to fish. They’re given the skills to help themselves,” Jensen says.
That said, researchers are still looking for a clear answer as to how hypnosis reduces pain. People with some level of hypnotizability seem to show a reduction in critical judgment while they’re being induced into hypnosis, accepting suggestions passively and without judgment, Patterson says. Jensen points out there is more theta wave electrical activity in the brain during this stage, suggesting a brain activity pattern that is consistent with response to suggestions.
“It’s as if we can talk directly to the areas of the brain that process pain, dampening the part of the brain that tells us that a suggestion is normally impossible,” Patterson says. “We can see remarkable perceptual changes that wouldn’t be anticipated during a normal, waking state.”
Patterson is also studying how hypnotism could be delivered via virtual reality. He tested a program that combined visual images with cues to relax and suggestions for comfort and pain relief in 21 hospitalized patients recovering from injuries (International Journal of Experimental Hypnosis, 2010). Participants who used the technology reported less pain severity and unpleasantness than those in control groups. Using such a program could help address a significant barrier to the widespread use of hypnosis: the lack of clinicians adequately trained in it, especially for pain management, he says.
Read Easing Pain
Interest in hypnosis for pain management has increased with recent evidence that hypnosis can reduce pain (and costs) associated with medical procedures, and there are now an adequate number of controlled studies of hypnosis to draw meaningful conclusions from the literature regarding chronic pain. If you are living with chronic pain, call or email me today and find out how you too can learn pain control hypnosis. If you are in too much pain to travel to my office or live too far away, together we can create an on-line program using my Hypnosis Health Info Virtual Office.
Your Hypnosis Health Info Hypnotic Suggestion for today:
My body is calm, relaxed and full of energy.
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