Pain has a single purpose: it is your body’s warning system, like the red light on the dashboard of your car. It’s a signal that you should see a doctor before the problem gets worse. At the very least, it can be a distraction from your everyday life, or in extreme cases it can severely restrict your lifestyle.
Pain management has proven a real success story for hypnotherapy and there is a mass of published evidence on the subject. At one end of the scale, it can be used for bruises, muscle aches, sprains and backache while at the other end, it is used with for treating the symptoms of serious illness, in operating theatres and dental surgeries. It is also often used alongside conventional medicine.
Hypnotherapy helps to control pain firstly by distraction and secondly by adjusting our perception of pain level. When people say they’d injured themselves but weren’t aware of the injury until someone told them, that is because they were distracted. Contrarily, if you are bored at work and happen to trap a finger in the filing drawer, it won’t take long to realise what you’ve done.
Furthermore, how we perceive pain often dictates how we experience it and this also varies from person to person. If you believe it’ll really hurt to stick a pin in your hand then, lo and behold, it will certainly hurt. But, if you can change your belief about pain then the pin will hurt less. Conventional medicine is usually effective, however, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence warns against long term use of painkillers, particualrly opioids.
I am ethically obliged to obtain written permission from your doctor before undertaking any course of hypnotherapeutic pain management, beyond general relaxation procedures. Your doctor should make a full assessment of your condition to treat the source of the problem. They must be aware and approve of hypnotherapeutic pain management being used alongside their own treatment.
- Albrecht Wobst’s Paper
Published on the Anesthesia & Analgesia website (for the International Anesthesia Research Society) gives a very helpful overview of the history of hypnosis in pain management and results of clinical research papers.
Giles Norbury is based at the Holistic Clinic in Ludlow, Shropshire.