How Hypnosis Helps Pain Management
Hypnosis has long been understood to produce varied effects in those being hypnotized. Although the public at large tends to associate hypnosis with stage performances and bad sit-com episodes, the medical community has approached the topic in a different vein.
Originally viewed as a magical cure-all, hypnosis has undergone tremendous amounts of scientific testing in modern times. When used in an professional manner, hypnosis has proven itself to be an effective tool in pain management.
Pain, Hypnosis, and Science
There is more and more research uncovering the science behind hypnosis and pain management. Most notably, using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or fMRI. Studies using fMRI have helped prove that the sensation of pain strength is largely the result of the mind’s interpretation of the nervous system’s ‘pain’ signal.
This interpretation is largely based upon history and expectations. This interpretation of the pain signal occurs in specific regions of the brain. These regions of the brain are the same regions that fMRI show hypnosis affects.
The state of hypnosis appears to reduce the activity levels in these interpretive regions as well as assisting in altering the interpretation in a desired direction. Hypnosis can help change the expectations, and thereby the interpretation of the ‘pain’ signal. This results in decreasing the subjective, experienced, pain level.
Hypnosis and Childbirth
Hypnosis became a popular method to assist childbirth with the creation of “Hypnobirthing”. Painless childbirth is a combination of different hypnosis techniques to address the different issues around childbirth.
History of Hypnosis and Pain Management
Hypnosis for sedation was used widely before the development of safe and effective surgical anesthesia (Chaves & Dworkin, 1997). In the 19th century, it served as the sole anesthetic for minor and major surgeries in India. Physiologic benefits from hypnosis were observed, but not understood.
These benefits included decreased heart rate, decreased respirations, improved mood, and overall relaxation. In the past decade, the use of hypnosis has increased as a complementary therapy in the management of pain in the acute care setting as well as in outpatient settings.
It has been shown to be effective in reducing both clinical and experimental pain (Chaves & Dworkin, 1997; Doody et al., 1991; Montgomery et al., 2000). The interest to incorporate hypnosis into clinical practice has increased because it is cost-effective. And, recent neuro imaging studies have provided an increased understanding of the mechanism of action of hypnosis (Patterson & Jensen, 2003).
As more information about negative drug side effects become known, drug free alternatives for pain management will continue to become more popular.
*previous medical evaluation for working with clients in pain, is required, along with a medical referral (we will provde you with a form at your consultation).