Control your pain associated with surgical or medical interventions (e. g. gastroscopy or colonoscopy), headaches, childbirth, cancer, and functional gastrointestinal disorders (e. g. irritable bowel syndrome or IBS).

Medical hypnosis has been used for centuries to alieviate or control immediate pain (e.g. during emergencies or surgical interventions) or acute pain caused by a chronic condition or chronic long-term pain.

It is increasingly being used as an adjunct to other methods of pain control (e. g., medication and physical medicine). Medical hypnosis is part of a multidisciplinary approach to pain management:

  • Psychological approach
  • Physical approach
    • Physical medicine and rehabilitation, e. g. electrotherapy, physiotherapy, massage, hydrotherapy, TENS, interventional procedures
    • Acupuncture
  • Pharmacological approach
    • E. g. non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, opioids, antidepressants

Applications of hypnotic pain management

  • Chronic pain
  • Psychosomatic pain
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Headaches, migraines
  • Pain relief in cancer patients
  • Preparation for medical interventions (e. g., endoscopy, injections and blood taking, bone marrow aspiration)
  • Minor surgical procedures (e. g., suturing, dressing of burns)
  • Dental interventions
  • Facilitating major surgery and general anesthesia: Medical hypnosis has many benefits in patients undergoing an operation such as reducing preoperative sedation, muscle relaxants, facilitating intubation, reduction of postoperative pain and anxiety, reduction in the use of narcotics and analgesics, lowered blood loss, earlier mobility, and more rapid healing.
  • Phantom limb pain
  • Obstetrics and gynecology, e.g. childbirth

The 5 different components of pain

  • Sensory component

How is the pain: Throbbing, burning, dull, stabbing? Where is the pain? How does the pain change over time?

  • Affective component

How does a person react to the pain? How unpleasant does the person rate the pain?

  • Cognitive component

How the pain is interpreted: Why is it there? Is it easing or worsening? Is the pain given much or little attention?

  • Behavioral component

How do we change our behavior when we suffer pain? Do we feel our muscles more tense? Do we avoid certain activities? Do we decide not to go to work? Do we seek medical assistance?

  • Physiological component

Often there is a stress response associated with pain: Sweating, tense muscles, heart beating faster, etc.

How does hypnosis help control pain?

Scientific research (e. g. by using PET = positron emission tomography) has shown that hypnosis has a physiological effect explaining its effectiveness: Hypnotic pain control is able to directly decrease activity in areas of the brain involved in our perception of pain.

There are many techniques being used for hypnotic pain control. Which technique the hypnotherapist uses depends on the individual patient and her/his history. Below is a list of some of the many techniques that have been developed:

Sensory strategies

  • Suggestion of numbness and insensitivity (e. g. ice bucket technique)
  • Displacement of pain to another part of the body
  • Reinterpretation of pain (e. g., burning pain becomes pleasant feeling of warmth)
  • Dissociation

Cognitive strategies

  • Imagery techniques
  • Distraction
  • Time distortion
  • Metaphors

History of the use of hypnosis in anesthesia and surgery

Hypnosurgery = the use of hypnosis in surgery

Hypnoanesthesia = the use of hypnosis in anesthesia

James Esdaile

Dr. James Esdaile (1808 – 1859) was a Scottish surgeon employed by the West India Company. He performed hundreds of operations using hypnosis as anesthesia, especially for scrotal tumors. His success rates were very high and the hypnosurgery described as a safe procedure:

I beg, to state, for the satisfaction of those who have not yet a practical knowledge of the subject, that I have seen no bad consequences whatever arise from persons being operated on when in the mesmeric trance.
Cases have occurred in which no pain has been felt subsequent to the operation even; the wounds healing in a few days by the first intention; and in the rest, I have seen no indications of any injury being done to the constitution.
On the contrary, it appears to me to have been saved, and that less constitutional disturbance has followed than under ordinary circumstances.
There has not been a death among the cases operated on.