Dealing with different forms of pain is really difficult and many people suffer a lot due to it.
We experience pain in different ways and often time we use relaxation techniques, medication, and other methods of pain management to feel better.
Hypnosis is one of the ways that have shown effectiveness in reducing pain and sensitivity to it.
We will take a look at how it works and what researchers say about it.
Understanding Pain And Its Management Better
Pain is one of the leading health problems that has affected millions of individuals across the world and society as a whole.
There are mainly 2 types of pain, that is, acute pain and chronic pain.
Acute pain is the type of pain that comes suddenly but usually lasts for a short period of time, mostly less than 6 months. Emotional distress and anxiety are normally dragged along as this pain begins to be felt.
Acute pain often disappears when the hidden cause has been addressed.
The common causes of acute pain are the damage of tissues such as organs, bones, and muscle, or dental procedures, burns, cuts, or labor related to childbirth.
Chronic pain, on the other hand, is the type of pain that goes for a longer period than 6 months.
Sometimes, it goes for years, and long after the injury has been addressed and healed since it resists medical treatment.
Some of the common symptoms experienced along with chronic pain include low energy levels, muscle tension, and reduced mobility.
Examples of chronic pain include low back pain, frequent headaches, fibromyalgia pain, nerve damage pain, and arthritis pain.
A 2016 study by The Global Burden of Disease revealed that the increase in experience of pain and pain-related diseases by people is the major reason lots of people have become burdened by diseases and disability (1).
Experts have also estimated that more than 1.5 billion people in the world are hugely affected by chronic pain (2).
People use various methods to manage their pain. Some people use medication such as opioids, others use meditation while others use relaxation techniques.
However, the opioid crisis has encouraged the need for natural techniques to combat pain.
Hypnosis is one of the many methods that help with pain and we are going to look at how exactly it helps with that.
What is Hypnosis
Hypnosis is simply a waking state of awareness or consciousness where the hypnotized person has his attention turned towards inner experiences such as feelings, imagery, and cognition.
It makes the person relaxed, calm, open to suggestions as well as with heightened concentration and attention.
Hypnosis is far different from what it is made to appear by those who use it for entertainment.
They make it seem like a mystical or magical practice that is used to manipulate people into doing different funny things such as barking like a dog on stage or walking like a duck, to name a few.
Clinical hypnosis, also known as hypnotherapy, uses hypnosis as a tool in therapy for helping people overcome different health conditions including facilitating cessation of smoking, relieving Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms and managing pain (3)(4)(5)(6)(7).
We encourage you to read our beginner’s guide to hypnosis to better understand this technique.
How Hypnosis Helps With Pain Management
Various studies have shown that hypnosis can be quite effective in managing different forms of pain.
It is worth noting that hypnosis is not a treatment in itself. Rather, it is used to facilitate other types of therapies and treatments.
And since people differ in the degree of hypnotizability, hypnosis may influence the improvement of the patients who use it on different levels.
The patients who are easily hypnotizable have been found to have long-lasting effects while other people who are fairly receptive to hypnosis have shown a fair amount of improvement.
The other factors that affect the ability to better respond to hypnosis include adherence to the treatment being offered and the level of motivation.
When it comes to pain, hypnosis is known to have the ability to make alterations to the brain related elements of the experience of pain (8).
Brain imaging research has found that based on the kind of hypnotic suggestions used on the patients, the affective and (or) sensory elements of pain and the areas of the brain linked to the elements may be affected.
This not only has a positive impact on less severe pain but also on the more severe one.
A 2000 meta-analysis of 18 studies done by 3 psychologists, William Redd, Guy Montgomery, and Katherine DuHamel revealed that seventy-five percent of the participants (both in experimental as well as the clinical environment) got a considerable amount of pain relief from different types of pain through hypnosis related techniques.
This shows that hypnosis may be a really good intervention for people suffering from various forms of pain except for those who have a poor response to it (9).
Research shows that hypnosis might be a good strategy for many therapies and treatments for most people with the exception of those who have high resistance to it as well as those who don’t respond to it.
Experts have pointed out that hypnosis based techniques not only save the clinician and patient time and money but are also similarly effective, or more effectual than other forms of treatment for both chronic and acute pain.
Hypno-analgesia, which is the term used for the use of hypnotic suggestions for pain relief, has a high probability of reducing pain, acute and chronic, in many hospitals, clinics, dental care centers, and burn care centers that use it for this purpose (10).
When it comes to acute pain, hypnosis has proven to be a promising intervention when used in treating burns especially when changing the dressing of the burn and removing the affected skin tissue, which is usually very painful.
It has also shown rewarding results with labor pain that comes from childbirth, dental-related pain, pain from bone marrow aspiration, and different surgical procedures including appendectomy.
Research experts have concluded that acute pain that comes from tissue damage can be addressed by hypnotic strategies much better than standard care and works better than most known pain treatments.
As for chronic pain, it has been established that hypnosis works well when consistently used on patients compared to those other patients who don’t receive treatment at all.
And when compared to other methods of pain relief that make use of sensations suggestions like autogenic training and relaxation, hypnosis provides equal value.
Some of the chronic pain health conditions that have worked well with hypnosis are fibromyalgia, temporal mandibular disorder pain, headache, mixed chronic pain, backache, and carcinoma related pain.
Chronic cases need a more comprehensive approach that goes beyond treating the pain alone, and into working on other related aspects like exercises, working with a healthy diet as well as other practices that improve their functional activity and well-being, enhancing body mechanics and mobility, and encouraging positive thinking patterns.
What Researchers Say About it
There have been numerous studies on the abilities of hypnosis to relieve pain over the years.
The findings of one study showed that hypnotic techniques bring about a considerable reduction of pain that comes with different chronic health issues consistently (11).
And when put alongside other interventions like physical therapy, education and attention, hypnosis was found to be generally more fruitful.
The authors of this publication further explained that randomized control trials that are large and well-designed are required to better understand this area.
Some studies, however, recommend hypnosis as a good complementary therapy for pharmacological anesthesia or analgesia during childbirth (14).
The findings of another study suggested that hypnotic techniques have the ability to provide effective relief to a good number of people and thus may be considered to be a safe and effectual alternative to the use of medication. However, reliable clinical data is required for it to be generally applicable even to the whole population with chronic pain (15).
Another study showed that, in regard to fighting chronic pain, hypnosis based treatment had 2 main potential effects on the people who suffer from it. (16).
First, it was found to bring down the intensity of pain in some patients for up to 1 year, although, not all patients experienced this relief.
Second, it provides skills on self-management that the patients can keep using after treatment that helps with temporary pain relief.
Generally, hypnosis has been found to have great potential effects when it comes to pain relief. And it may be useful when used in different forms of pain.
While it shows promising results, there have been some limitations here and there that call for further research in this area to properly comprehend the mechanism of action and application in various settings (17).
It is also recommended that those clinicians who use Hypno-analgesia to be well versed with other pain treatment methods other than hypnosis, to combine the various techniques to offer the most effective pain relief that has long-lasting results.