So you want to to reduce pain using hypnosis?
You're in the right place. Both chronic pain and acute pain respond really well to hypnosis!
In this blog post, you will learn all about hypnosis and pain management, including:
- Discover exactly what pain is, how to assess it, and why it matters
- The fascinating history of hypnosis for pain management
- Our favorite hypnotic techniques to reduce pain
- Learn how to hypnotize people to help them reduce pain
Hypnosis works so well for pain relief because it is an amplifier of experience. So if we amplify things that naturally relieve pain, we get great results.
Many of the techniques in this post will work without hypnosis; by adding a deep trance, your results are far more certain.
Pain – It's all in the brain!
It is essential to understand that you experience all pain inside your brain. That's why hypnosis is so powerful for pain reduction and management.
Thinking of pain as a helpful signal might seem strange initially, but pain serves an important purpose.
As the old song says:
It's nature's way of telling you something's wrong.
If you think of it as a signal, pain isn't necessarily a bad thing. For instance, while a sprained ankle hurts a lot, the pain ensures you won't walk on it too soon, making it worse. If the pain signal didn't exist, you'd never know when to seek medical attention.
Remember: Pain is a critical signal that calls for attention! Never ignore it, and never deal with a person's pain unless you have permission in writing from their primary health care practitioner. You'll be surprised at how easy it is to get written consent as a professional hypnotist. Doctors have full caseloads, and hypnosis is unlikely to cause any harm.
How We Experience Pain
Imagine that you accidentally put your feet into scalding hot water. You pull them out instantly because your unconscious mind causes you to act before you're consciously aware of the reason. You will only feel the pain of the burn a second later! The pain receptors are slower than those that make you realize you have injured or burnt yourself.
The Two Types of Pain
All pain will fit into one of two categories; acute or chronic. Acute pain is sudden onset, like a burn or a broken bone. Chronic pain, like arthritis, is long-term and pain you might carry until the day you die.
Amazingly, hypnosis is highly effective against both types!
Pain and swelling, for example, can be reduced through hypnosis if a person suffers an injury or a burn. In the case of burns, if you use hypnosis within hours of the burn, you can significantly reduce the severity.
There are a variety of uses for hypnosis and those suffering from chronic pain. For example, hypnosis can greatly reduce the pain of a long-term neck injury by putting the pain in the background where the conscious mind doesn't notice it.
Pain as a Subjective Experience
Pain and suffering are not the same, and they are entirely subjective. One person may have a crushed limb but thinks so little of it that suffering is not significant. Another person may feel like they're dying from an ingrown toenail.
There is a story of a man who was out one night for his stag - the party with his buddies before his wedding day. He got very drunk. When he woke up the next morning, he discovered he had a broken leg wrapped in a cast. Since he'd broken the femur by stepping off the curb and having his leg run over by a motorcyclist who fled the scene, his pain was unbearable.
Only later did he discover that his leg was entirely uninjured. His friends waited for him to pass out drunk, and a medical student applied the cast. His excruciating pain vanished when he realized nothing was wrong with him!
Is that hypnosis? You decide
Mesmerism in India: A Brief History of Hypnosis for Pain Management
When the average person thinks about hypnosis, they typically think of using hypnosis for smoking cessation or perhaps a stage show they saw. In reality, dealing with pain is where hypnosis really shines!
In the late 1800s, Scottish surgeon James Esdaile worked in Calcutta with the East India Company. Over twenty years, Esdaile performed 300 serious operations without pain to the patient and reduced surgical complications without ever using anesthesia. Oh, did we forget to mention he didn't use anesthesia because no one discovered it yet? That's pretty important.
His landmark book, Mesmerism in India, tells how he used Mesmerism, an early form of hypnosis, to do even major surgery with excellent results.
By the 19th century, British hospitals were using hypnosis for anesthesia. Then, hypnotic anesthesia fell into oblivion.
Why? Because scientists discovered chloroform. It was faster than hypnosis, which could take more time to get certain patients into a pain-free condition. Thus, the positive effects of hypnotic anesthesia, such as less bleeding, faster wound healing, and lower risk of infection, were also lost and forgotten.
Hypnosis for Pain Management in the 21st Century
Today, thousands of dentists and medical doctors use hypnosis for painless dental treatments, surgeries, outpatient procedures, first aid (burn injury), allergies, and even irritable bowel syndrome. In the '90s, Dr. Stanley Fisher even wrote about how hypnotizing patients' pre-surgery caused greater relaxation and faster recovery.
With all of this, we can say hypnosis for pain management has become mainstream. But be careful: we have a very important warning you must consider.
Avoid Painted Words
Much of the pain we experience is through anticipation, making pain worse. The worse we think something will feel, the worse it will feel. Even using what are known as "painted words" can cause pain to feel worse.
That's why you should never use words like "pain" or "agony" with a subject in a trance. What might seem like simple descriptors can have horrible effects on the subject's perception of the pain. When a doctor or medical authority speaks painted words, it can have an even more significant impact.
If you think about it, this is no different than any ordinary discomfort. Suppose you start doing strenuous work, and it starts to feel uncomfortable. In that case, you can easily talk yourself into thinking it will get a lot worse, and you'll stop short of what you would have been able to do without that negative self-talk.
You can convince yourself of pretty much anything. And that is a form of self-hypnosis. It's just not the good kind.
By framing pain as something like "discomfort," "that bad feeling," or even "pressure," hypnotists can avoid inadvertently amplifying the client's pain.
Remember that suggestions must be given in positive language. They can be repeated using different words and hitting all three main representational systems like in a revivification process.
How To Test Your Work Using Subjective Units of Distress (SUDs)
(Read: Subjective Units of Distress Scale (SUDS): How To Use It).
Before applying any technique for pain management, have the client describe the symtopm using subjective units of distress (SUDs).
Simply ask: "How bad is the pain out of 10 right now?" The scale typically runs from zero, which is no pain at all, to ten, meaning unbearable pain. The number they give you is the starting point, or baseline, of your subject's pain.
At the end of a session, when you recheck the SUDs, you can easily track the progress in pain reduction and show the client that they have improved.
Once you get the SUDS, it's time to use some hypnotic techniques, so let's dive into them.
10 Incredible Hypnosis Techniques for Pain Management
1. Sell the Subject on the Science!
Setting the right frame is vital for good results, especially when dealing with pain. Remember, anticipation makes the pain worse. A good attitude will set the groundwork in a positive, confident way. Ultimately helping calm and prepare the subject.
Before a session, pre-frame that there are many effective ways of dealing with pain other than pharmaceuticals. Explain that our brains and bodies contain a medicine chest that rivals anything you can get by prescription.
The brain is powerful. It can produce feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. But it can also release morphine-like compounds, like endorphins, that reduce pain.
Explaining the underlying science will build rapport with the subject and pave the way to pain relief.
2. Just Relax...
Relaxation alone can cause analgesic effects. When we relax, the brush endings of the nerves move further apart, which means fewer pain impulses successfully cross the synaptic gap.
Tension, in contrast, makes the pain worse. Hypnosis can cause profound relaxation, so take advantage of this when working with clients. Relaxation will change the client's perception of pain. The more profoundly you can relax your client, the less pain they will report feeling. Direct suggestions in hypnosis can reinforce this pain-free experience in an awakened state.
If you're getting great results with this, make sure you give a post-hypnotic suggestion to the client whenever they need to, and be able to relax so that the discomfort subsides naturally.
3. Use Direct Suggestion in Hypnosis for Pain Management
Specific, direct hypnotic suggestions can help your clients reduce inflammation and chronic pain.
The great Dr. Milton H. Erickson, arguably the most skilled and experienced hypnotist ever, said that hypnosis amplifies the human experience. That's why all the various methods of dealing with pain will benefit from adding hypnosis. The simplest way to use hypnosis with pain or discomfort is to use direct suggestions.
DSiH, or direct suggestion in hypnosis, can be a very powerful and effective way to help people feel better.
In this case, the hypnotist would induce a deep trance and give a series of direct and simple suggestions for health and well-being. Giving suggestions of relaxation is typically included.
Amazingly, any disorder that responds to anti-histamines or anti-inflammatory drugs will respond to hypnosis. By giving direct suggestions for the reduction of discomfort and reduced inflammation, the hypnotist can magnify their results.
In a hypnosis session, you can use suggestions like this:
And as you continue to relax...that old discomfort just fades...you relax deeply...and you notice a comfortable coolness...spreading through the area...that used to bother you... that's right...feeling really good again...and healing so quickly now.
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4. Use Metaphors or Guided Imagery to Reduce Pain
A metaphor is a way of explaining something in terms of something else. If someone says their feelings towards another person are "cooling," we know they don't mean temperature. Metaphors work because we intuitively understand them!
When it comes to pain, metaphors about quenching a fire can help reduce inflammation. Use your imagination here, and be congruent when you speak. The more you believe what you're saying, the more your subject will accept it.
Suggestions of cold or coolness can be potent when turning down pain and discomfort. Imagining a tiny fireman spraying freezing-cold liquid on a burn can reduce bradykinins (a chemical your body produces that makes burns worse!)
Mike put himself into a hypnotic trance and visualized tiny firefighters spraying his burned fingers with liquid nitrogen. Not only did the discomfort rapidly reduce, but also the skin damage, effectively speeding up healing.
(Read: Metaphor Vs. Guided Imagery).
5. Put The Client in a "Control Room"
This technique is actually a guided imagery process!
Best of all, using an imaginary control room to reduce pain and inflammation is effortless. Here's how:
- Induce and deepen trance, remembering to suggest deep relaxation.
- Have the subject imagine a control panel in front of them that controls all body systems.
- Tell the subject to find the dial or lever that controls the discomfort they're feeling right now. Check the SUDs.
- Have the subject reach out with their physical hand and turn the pain down.
- You can do the same thing with an imaginary dial that controls inflammation or even speeds up healing.
- Re-check SUDs at the end of this process to notice the improvement.
6. Change Pain by Shifting Submodalities
We all experience the world around us through our senses. Interestingly though, we don't react to the world itself. We respond to our internal experience of the world. The way you experience life is by a system called submodalities.
Submodalities are the way we code information, so the world makes sense. We do this by storing all of our experiences in visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (or feeling) terms. When we change the code, we change the meaning and experience.
Let's say you have a headache. Ask yourself what color it is.
Now imagine you pull it out of your head, so it's in front of you in space. Now change the color and put the pain back in.
Repeat as needed!
By changing the color of the pain, you are affecting it indirectly. Then when you put it back as a feeling, it will have changed. That's because the color representing the headache was your brain's interpretation of the headache itself. When you switch it through colors, the coding for the headache experience also changes.
Submodalities are the building blocks of subjective human experience. When we react to an event, like the feeling of pain, we don't respond to the external event itself. Instead, we react to how we perceive the event in our minds and bodies.
We do this through different sensory modalities. These are:
- Visual system,
- Auditory (or hearing) system,
- Kinesthetic (or feeling) system.
The modalities listed above are then broken up even further into submodalities.
For example, a picture's visual modality can have bright or faint submodalities. A sound can be loud or soft, close or distant. Feelings can be warm or sharp. The number of submodalities is practically unlimited.
Simply put, when you change the submodalities, you will automatically shift the person's perception of the experience.
Changing pain directly in the kinesthetic or feeling modality can be very difficult. On the other hand, it's surprisingly easy to change pain in the visual or auditory sense.
By shifting a feeling to a sound or image, you will often reduce the pain immediately because you are changing the submodalities. You can do this several times, shifting different aspects of the pain so it continues to change. You can do the same thing with the auditory system.
(Read: All About NLP Submodalities (And How To Use Them)).
7. Over-Describe the Pain
To over-describe something is to break it into tinier and tinier details. Asking an ailing subject to give us greater and greater detail about their pain will tend to make the pain too abstract to keep track of, and it will fall apart.
It can be as simple as asking if the discomfort is more at the front or the back…the top or the bottom…on the left or right…off to the side…more toward the front…or the back…and so on.
The effect is more profound in a deep state of trance. To do this, start by asking for the SUDs as per usual. Then ask for the location of the discomfort.
8. Push Pain to the Background (Dissociation)
Another powerful way of getting rid of pain is through dissociation. You simply have the subject imagine they are looking at their body in a mirror or from outside of themselves.
The dissociation caused by the imagination will separate them from the pain. Creating dissociation is easy in a hypnotic trance. There are many creative ways of using dissociation, but it's most potent when done with hypnosis
Insider tip: the greater the dissociation, the greater the pain relief.
Suppose a client in an ER has sutures put into a nasty cut. In that case, they can imagine floating out of their body and viewing the procedure from the ceiling.
Another way to think about dissociation is to imagine that instead of being in the front car of a roller-coaster, you imagine watching yourself on that same roller coaster, but from the perspective of a park bench nearby.
The great thing about dissociation is it works for both pain and emotions! It is that powerful.
9. Change Your Focus - The Pain is Not You! (Identity Shifts and Distraction)
You don't want your client to give pain a lot of focus in their daily life. "Hugging" the discomfort makes the pain a part of their identity – who they are.
Remember to tell your client, "You are not the pain. The pain is simply something you currently feel, but it's not you."
Focusing on the pain is the exact opposite of dissociation and distraction. The client should focus on things they like doing.
What hobbies or activities can your client immerse themselves in?
10. Glove Anaesthesia
By causing a hypnotized subject's hand to become cataleptic and float in the air, you can give direct suggestions of coolness and numbness spreading through their hand. We aim for anesthesia, no sensation, but your clients will often be happy to get analgesia, no pain.
By suggesting the numbness then flows to the other hand and doubles as it does, we are utilizing the principle of compounding. We can then get the numbness to flow to a foot, doubling in intensity as it does. By moving it back to the original hand while doubling it every time, we can usually get a profound numbness in that hand.
Now the subject can then place their hand where pain relief is required. The numbness and suggested anti-inflammatory effect will flow into the troubled area and bring relief.
Inner Secret: Stacking Techniques
Stacking techniques is a simple way to amplify your results.
When we change our breathing, it changes a lot of other things. Yoga practitioners and martial artists have known this for thousands of years.
It's simple for a hypnotist to instruct a suffering client to breathe in pale blue or green healing light and then send it to the place needed while exhaling and relaxing.
Using the breath can be very powerful, especially when you combine relaxation and guided imagery into the breathing shifts. It's an effective method and works with self-hypnosis too.
Putting it All Together
Thanks to the phenomenal work of James Esdaile and the discovery of hypnotic anesthesia, we can use hypnosis to reduce or even eliminate the feeling of pain. And the best part is that there are no adverse side effects.
Keep in mind that pain only exists in the brain. Consequently, using hypnotic methods to change how we think about pain can have powerful effects.
We can use hypnotic techniques to slow or prevent the release of the substance P. This chemical causes us to experience localized pain. We can use hypnosis to induce profound relaxation, which automatically lessens any feelings of discomfort.
By applying time distortion, the subject can experience a whole day's worth of pain in just a few minutes. Alternately, we can cause hypnotic amnesia, which enables clients to forget to notice their pain.
And there's no need to be limited by a single technique. By layering different methods, you can significantly reduce a client's discomfort. Applying various techniques will greatly enhance your chances of finding one that works for that person.
It's a good idea to suggest that all the good feelings and relief they notice while in hypnosis will stay with them, and the relief will continue when they awaken. This will ensure your subject has access to a better feeling state when they come out of hypnosis.
Whichever way you approach hypnotic pain relief, always make sure you do thorough work. Never use hypnosis to treat pain without permission in writing from the subject's doctor.
Pain Relief At Your Fingertips!
In our experience, there are usually three different types of people when it comes to overcoming a difficulty.
The first type is those who want to seek the help of a professional for their issue, like going to a doctor or hypnotherapist for pain management.
The second type is those who want to handle it themselves.
Finally, the third is the kind of people who want to learn how it all works so they can help others overcome their difficulties.
Whether you are the first, second, or third kind of person, we've got something that can help you on your journey.
The Pain Management Solution
Suppose you would love to manage your pain on your own. In that case, we suggest our hypnosis audio program for pain management, The Pain Management Solution.
This unique product will help you discover more ways to manage pain, and the included hypnosis audio tracks may remove it entirely.
As a bonus, you'll also get a 2 video course on using a highly effective tapping protocol that Mike used to overcome his own problem with fibromyalgia.
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The Mike Mandel Hypnosis Academy
Finally, we know that some of you want to learn this fantastic hypnosis skill, which is why we've developed The Mike Mandel Hypnosis Academy.
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