Hypnosis For Pains
Hypnosis for pains is the main use of hypnosis for which it became famous 200 years back. Dr.Esdaile performed even major surgeries with hypnosis as the only anesthetic; before chemical anesthesia became routine. Everyone has experience with pain – one way or other; since pain has a hundred different ways of visiting us. If it is not present in reality associated with an obvious hurt it is still present metaphorically. Pain does not influence just human beings – it is present for all living organisms and is probably one of the most fundamental ways we know about what is good and bad. Good is away from pain and bad is something that causes pain. But in human beings pain is not just pain – it has other baggage to carry around. We carry pain around even when it is not necessary. Our mind can shackle us to pain; and it can also free us from it.
Hypnosis has been useful for pain from time immemorial. Even now there are indications for the use of hypnosis in various medical and surgical procedures. It can be used not just in acute pain conditions like surgery but also in chronic pain conditions. In fact that is one of the areas that hypnosis can be of real great benefit. Hypnosis can and should be part of a multi-pronged approach to chronic pain.
Pain, Suffering and Pain Related Behavior
1) The initial nerve stimulation that causes the pain – the thorn in the foot, whiplash injury after an accident, the disc problem that occurs after lifting a weight- is the initial event / injury/ insult that occurs that tells the brain ‘hey something just happened here”. This has to run up the spinal cord and to the brain and then down the same way for a response “ what should I do now?”.
2) Pain is the bodily sensation that is caused by “something that happened there”.
3) Suffering is the emotional response caused by the pain and other events. If the pain was caused by a car accident for example the suffering is out of proportion to the actual injury because there are elements of shock and trauma, guilt or shame or anger added to the injury. They make the suffering more than what it looks from outside just from an injury point of view.
4) Pain related behavior is what people do to communicate their pain to others – limping, groaning, crying and sometimes more subtly not going to work etc.
Given how actual or imagined injury can trigger pain and suffering pain researchers now opine that:
1) The nature of an injury cannot predict the extent of pain and suffering
Small injuries can trigger chronic suffering and even large wounds can be borne without suffering. For a train accident survivor – who had only a minor injury – there might be “ intolerable pain” because the accident images are intolerable. There is an enormous amount of guilt that is associated with it and that is what is causing the pain perception. While the accident actually happened the person might not have even felt the minor injury because of the happiness that came up immediately because of surviving.
2) It is not necessary to have the nerve stimulation or actual injury to start off this cycle.
The pain may even be associated with an injury that was long gone. This is because surface injuries may not leave their mark on the surface but in the brain and this makes the pain persist. This is true with chronic pain. And that pain can be triggered by even common everyday things for example- for a person with chronic back pain even the mention of his having to lift a heavy weight can start off the pain – because the brain has done its calculations and found the imprinted memory of having back pain. Even a kind word to the person “how is your pain now, do you feel ok” can trigger the pain sensation.
While it sounds so, this observation should not automatically make us say “you do not have anything – it is all in your head” for in this case the injury is still there but it is not where it occurred originally- it is in the mind. But it is as real to the sufferer as a fresh physical wound and that is what matters.
3) Our thoughts and brain can override the pain signals.
In the picture what is marked as Pain and Suffering and Behavior – all the 3 can be modified by our thoughts. All of us probably have experienced ( esp. when we were young ) painful falls and hurts ( and even bleeding noticed later) that we never felt when it occurred because we were busy playing etc. That means the injury was there but never felt as pain when it occurred. Brain / Mind can do this. This is what we will use hypnosis to accomplish. Hypnosis can alter the pain sensation so that it is not felt when procedures are made in the body, even when surgery is done, tooth is pulled or when a woman delivers a baby in childbirth with hypnosis help. In such known situations apart from the actual pain mind also plays a part – there is anxiety about the procedure that can increase the pain felt, there may be a fear of death or about the outcome of a procedure and this can cause the pain to be felt more. Again hypnosis can address not only the pain but these worries and problems due to anticipation. This is treating the acute pain.
In chronic pain where the Suffering and Habits parts kick in, hypnosis can change the reasons of why the body has a need to have the pain. Chronic pain is generally 3 – 6 months of duration (that is generally more than the normal expected healing time). This pain does respond well to medical intervention and usually mingled with depression, worries, inactivity and other issues. Hypnosis can help this in many ways – by changing the emotions and shock associated with pain (see the picture above) like anxiety, depression , guilt and trauma. Hypnosis will help change wrong beliefs about pain. For some people their conflicts about happenings in their life can cause the pain (“This job is a headache”) and again hypnosis will help in addressing the conflicts – whether the current one or past conflicts. Hypnosis can also be a great help in changing people’s behaviors and motivations by giving hope and optimism. ( Also look at causes of mind-body problems).
Ways by which Hypnosis can help in pain
- Hypnosis can produce generalized calmness
- Hypnosis can give a calm peaceful restful place
- Can give pain relief at the injured part by decreasing responses
- By creating peaceful responses like warm or cool sensations
- Pain relief imagery
- Decrease pain intensity and change the sensation to something different
- Make client experience comfortable bodily sensations like relaxation
- Age regression to experience past comfortable memories
- Experience a feeling of “not caring” about the pain – floating away in clouds etc.
- Make people forget about distressful situations
- Take away the fear and anxiety about future pain
- Alter the meaning of pain – pain does not mean sympathy from others
- Focus on valued goals of the client like being able to do gardening again
- Motivate to do physical exercises / physiotherapy