Using Hypnosis for Medication-free Pain Control
By Jenny Sill-Holeman CHT, CtHA
Virtually everyone experiences major chronic or acute pain at some point during their lifetime. Once the source of the pain is known and you are working with your health practitioner to remedy the problem, the pain no longer serves its purpose and can safely be controlled. Generally people turn to pain control medications, whether over-the-counter or a prescription, to relieve unnecessary pain. But sometimes the side effects of medication are almost as bad as the pain itself. You might get an upset stomach from aspirin or other pain relievers, or become addicted to something your doctor prescribed. Or perhaps you simply prefer not to use drugs of any sort.
Hypnosis and Pain
Hypnosis is one of the most natural alternatives to drugs for controlling pain. It works because the mind and body are connected: what is done to one affects the other. Here's an example. Think about biting into a slice of lemon. Really imagine the tart taste as the cool juice squirts onto your tongue. What happened? Did your saliva start to flow? Your thoughts caused your body's reaction.
Similarly your expectation determines the extent of your pain. If you expect pain with a certain procedure - like dental treatment for example - you will be prepared for pain and will experience it strongly, no matter how careful your dentist is. In other words it is your brain - your mind - that gives meaning to pain.
How to Reprogram Pain
Just as expectation can strengthen your experience of pain, your mind can moderate pain. Using hypnosis, you can reprogram how your body reacts to a painful situation. There are several ways this reprogramming can work. Here are a few of them. Imagery can help stimulate the release of endorphins into your body. Visualization of what you want to have happen seems to trigger the correct physical response in your body. Under hypnosis you can visualize soothing, healing endorphins reducing the pain. As you do so your pain will lessen and may even completely disappear.
Deep relaxation can help relieve pain. Some painful conditions, such as headaches or IBS, are aggravated by stress and therefore can be eased by relaxation alone. Even those conditions that are not directly stress-related can be helped with relaxation. Pain causes your muscles to tense up, and the tension makes the pain worse. You may have noticed that an injection hurts less when you're relaxed than when you're tense. It is possible to distract yourself from the pain. One young woman had open heart surgery using hypnosis as her only anesthetic. As part of the process she imagined herself water-skiing on her favorite lake, distancing herself from the surgery.
Since anticipation of pain makes it worse, hypnosis can help relieve your fear of pain if you are facing a situation that could be painful, such as natural childbirth. If you go into the procedure relaxed, without fear, and with confidence in your ability to handle the situation, it will be much less painful.
One of the most interesting ways to reduce pain is metaphor intervention, which involves treating the pain as if it were an object and describing its characteristics, such as its shape, size, color, texture, and temperature. When it is clearly defined you imagine transforming it into something else, often the metaphor's opposite. Within a few minutes after you finish the exercise your pain will be much reduced, if not gone altogether.
Another common pain control technique is glove anesthesia, in which the Hypnotherapist helps you make your hand numb. You then transfer the numbness to the painful area by placing your hand there.
Know Yourself to Avoid Pain
Pain is best controlled when it begins, not when it is in full force. To avoid flare-ups of a chronic condition you must know your own body, its areas of tension, its needs, its sensitivities, how it feels when it is relaxed, and what the beginnings of a painful episode, for instance a migraine, feel like. Hypnosis can help a you become familiar with your own sensitivities by remembering previous flare-ups and learning techniques to warn against creating the conditions that cause the problem.
Hypnosis should be used as part of a total pain-control program. You should not try to relieve your pain through hypnosis until you know what is causing it. A suddenly occurring back pain may be due only to a muscle spasm, but it might also be a herniated disc, so you should get it diagnosed and physical treatment started before going to a Hypnotherapist to control your pain.
If you suffer from chronic or acute pain, are facing a potentially painful procedure, or are especially fearful of or sensitive to pain, consider Hypnotherapy as a complement to your standard medical treatment. You will be glad you did.
I had an occasion to conduct several sessions on healing and pain control with a client who was also a friend. She had developed a sudden and painful liver condition which her physicians were unable to diagnose. I worked with her on pain control in a couple of sessions, one while she was still in the hospital and one after she was discharged.
The first session took place in the hospital under less than ideal conditions. The visit was on a Saturday during peak visiting hours, right after lunch, and there was a lot of activity around the patient in the next bed. Nevertheless my client entered a deep enough level of hypnosis for our purposes.
I led her through a session on glove anesthesia, which I taped for her to use later. In the session I suggested to her that her hand was becoming very numb, and that she could transfer this numbness to any area of her body by simply placing her hand there. She was successful in using the technique while under hypnosis.
A few days later she was discharged, but by mistake she was sent home without any pain control medication. Fortunately she had the tape of the glove anesthesia session I had conducted in the hospital and she was able to use the technique to successfully control her pain until she could get her prescription.
On a later visit to her at her home I repeated the glove anesthesia session, which she continued to use to control the pain and reduce her need for medication.
Copyright © to the author. Reprinted with kind permission
Jenny Sill-Holeman, CHT, CtHA
1040 Noel Dr., Suite 206 Menlo Park, CA 94025 (650)323-2580