Hypnosis for Pain Management: Ten Effective Techniques

Filed under: Hypnosis Training

Do you think that hypnosis is just for smoking cessation, weight loss, or stress reduction? Think again. Hypnosis for pain management is a major area of success for so many people! Hypnosis is great for dealing with both chronic and acute pain. It's an area where hypnosis truly shines.

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 posting will work without hypnosis, by adding a deep trance your results are far more certain.

In this article, you will learn all about hypnosis and pain management including:

  • What makes hypnosis such a powerful tool for pain management
  • What pain means and what useful purpose it has
  • Effective techniques for dealing with pain
  • What you can do today to help relieve pain by using hypnosis

Did You Know: Hypnosis Provides Painless Surgery Without Anaesthetic?

Believe it or not: James Esdaile, a Scottish Army surgeon who served twenty years in India, performed more than 200 painless, serious operations (including an 85-pound tumor resection) with the help of hypnosis, known as “mesmeric anaesthesia”. He took hours to put his patients into a state of trance so deep, there is thought to be no deeper level. Many years later, Dave Elman created a fast way of getting subjects to this profound state of hypnosis, which he named the “Esdaile State”.

Hypnosis was Forgotten and Rediscovered as a Pain Management Technique

By the 19th century, hypnosis was being used in British hospitals for anaesthesia. Once chloroform was discovered, hypnotic anaesthesia fell into oblivion. Why? Because hypnosis could take more time to get certain patients into a pain-free condition than with the use of chloroform. Thus, the positive effects of hypnotic anaesthesia, such as less bleeding, faster wound healing and lower risk of infection, were also lost and forgotten.

Free Power Inductions Tutorial

This free video tutorial shows you exactly how to perform Rapid and Instant inductions. Use these inductions before you do pain management work or ANY other hypnotic work.

Hypnosis in 21st Century Pain Management

Today, thousands of dentists and medical doctors worldwide use hypnosis for painless dental treatments, surgeries and outpatient procedures, for first aid (burn injury) and even irritable bowel syndrome and allergies. Hypnosis has become mainstream. Yet people in the general public still think about hypnosis for quitting smoking before they think about hypnotic pain relief.

Pain – It’s all in the brain!

It is vitally important to understand that all pain is actually experienced inside your brain. That’s the reason hypnosis is so powerful for pain reduction and pain management.

Thinking of pain as a helpful signal might seem strange at first, but pain actually serves an important purpose. Pain is an indicator that something, somewhere, is wrong. Therefore, simply removing the pain without heeding the message, is a very bad idea.

For example, pain stops us from walking on a sprained ankle so it can heal. The pain has “done its job” and delivered its message.

Remember: Pain is a very important 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. For a professional hypnotist, this is surprisingly easy to get , as doctors have full case-loads, and hypnosis is unlikely to cause any harm.

How We Experience Pain in the Body

Imagine that you accidentally put your feet into scalding hot water. You pull them out instantly because your unconscious mind causes you to act even 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 the receptors that make you realize you have injured or burnt yourself.

Hypnotic Fact: Anticipation Makes Pain Worse

Much of the pain we experience is through anticipation, and anticipation makes pain worse. The worse we think something will feel, the worse it will feel. Even using what are known as "painted words" can make pain much worse. That's why you should never use words like "pain" or "agony" with a subject in trance. What might seem to us like simple descriptors can have horrible effects on the subject's perception of the pain. Especially when spoken by a doctor or medical authority. 

If you think about it, this is really no different than any ordinary discomfort. If you start doing strenuous work, and it starts to feel uncomfortable, 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, my friends, is a form of self-hypnosis. It's just not the good kind.

Pain and Suffering are Subjective

Pain and suffering are not the same and they are entirely subjective. One person may have a crushed limb but thinks of it in such a way 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 that was 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 agonizing.

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 the instant he realized there was nothing wrong with him!

Is that hypnosis? You decide.

10 Incredible Techniques for Dealing with Pain

Before applying any technique for pain management, get the client’s subjective units of distress (SUDs) by asking: “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. This gives you a starting point to see where the subject is.

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 he or she has improved.

Let's dive into the techniques.

1) Sell the Subject on the Science! 

Setting the right preframe is vital for good results, especially when dealing with pain. Remember that anticipation makes pain worse. A good attitude will set the groundwork in a positive, confident way. This will help calm and prepare the subject. 

Before a session, preframe that there are lots of 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.

By explaining the underlying science, you will build rapport with the subject and pave the way to effective pain relief.

2) Just Relax...

Relaxation alone can cause analgesic effects. When we relax, the brush endings of the nerves move further apart. This means fewer pain impulses successfully cross the synaptic gap.

Tension, in contrast, makes pain worse. Hypnosis can cause a 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. This can then be reinforced through direct suggestion.

If you're getting great results with this make sure you give a post-hypnotic suggestion for the client to be able to relax, appropriately, whenever he needs to, in order to let that discomfort subside naturally.

3) Use Direct Suggestion in Hypnosis for Pain Management

Just by using specific, direct hypnotic suggestions, you can help your clients reduce inflammation and chronic pain. In a hypnosis session, you can use suggestions like the following:

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.

Remember to avoid words like “pain” or “agony” here.

Also remember that suggestions need to be given in positive language (what the client wants, not what they don't want), and they can be repeated using different words, and by hitting all three major representational systems.  

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 actually mean temperature. Metaphors work because we intuitively understand them!

When it comes to pain, metaphors about fire being quenched 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 very powerful when turning down pain and discomfort. Imagining a tiny fireman spraying freezing-cold liquid on a burn can actually reduce bradykinins (a chemical your body produces, which makes burns worse!)

Mike put himself into a hypnotic trance and visualized tiny. firemen spraying his burned fingers with liquid nitrogen. This had a profound effect of not only reducing the discomfort, but also reducing the skin damage, which effectively speeds up healing. 

5) Put The Client in a "Control Room"

This technique is actually a guided imagery process!

It's very easy to use an imaginary control room to reduce pain and inflammation. Here's how:

  • Induce and deepen trance, remembering to suggest deep relaxation.
  • Have the subject imagine a control panel in front of him or her that controls all the systems of the body.
  • 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.
  • Recheck SUDs at the end of this process to notice the improvement.

6) Change Pain by Shifting Submodalities

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.

These three representational systems, or modalities, are further broken down into submodalities.

A picture can be bright or faint. A sound can be loud or soft, close or distant. A feeling can be warm, or perhaps sharp. The number of submodalities is practically unlimited.

By changing the submodalities, you will automatically change the person's perception of an experience. 

It can be very difficult to change pain directly in the kinesthetic or feeling modality. On the other hand, it's surprisingly easy to change pain in the visual or auditory sense.

Have the subject describe the pain as a color and/or shape, then ask them to imagine this visual image leaving their body and floating in front of them.

Next have the person change the color or shape - Get creative here! - Then ask them to put it back into his body and notice how the feeling has changed.

Amazingly, this will often greatly reduce the pain almost 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 exact same thing with the auditory system.

7) Over-Describe the Pain

Amazingly, if you ask a client to focus on his pain in greater and greater details, it can become so abstract that it just vanishes.

When this is done in a deep trance, the effect is profound. To do this, start by asking for the SUDs as per usual. Then ask for the location of the discomfort.

If he says it's in the front of his head, ask if that's the left front or the right front. If he says the right front, ask if it's the top or bottom of the right. Keep going until the pain disappears. It often will!

This technique requires some practice and a congruent attitude!

8) Push Pain to the Background

Another powerful way of getting rid of pain is through dissociation. You simply have the subject imagine she's looking at her body in a mirror or from outside of herself.

This will separate her from the pain. This is very easy to do in a hypnotic trance. The greater the dissociation, the greater the pain-relief.

Also, anything that takes someone’s mind off the pain will tend to push it into the background of their awareness. It won't bother her in the background.

You can directly suggest, through hypnosis, that her pain will slip into the background and not be noticed. By combining this with dissociation, the effect will be amplified.

9) Change Your Focus - The Pain is Not You!

You don't want your client to give pain a lot of focus in his daily life. “Hugging” the pain makes it a part of his identity – who he is.

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. It's better the client to focus on things he likes doing.

What hobbies or activities can your client immerse himself in? How can you use direct suggestion to accomplish this during a session?

10) Glove Anaesthesia

By causing a hypnotised subject's hand to become cataleptic and float in the air, we can give direct suggestions of coolness and numbness spreading through the hand. We aim for anaesthesia, no sensation, but are quite happy to get analgesia, no pain.

By suggesting the numbness then flows to the other hand and doubles as it does, we are utilising 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 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.

Putting it All Together

Thanks to the phenomenal work of James Esdaile and the discovery of hypnotic anaesthesia, we can use hypnosis to effectively reduce or even completely eliminate the feeling of pain. And, the best part is that there are no negative side effects.

Keep in mind, that pain only exists in the brain. Consequently, using hypnotic methods to change the way we think about pain can have powerful effects.

We can use hypnotic techniques to slow or prevent the release of substance P - the chemical that causes us to experience localised pain. We can use hypnosis to cause 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. This enables a client to actually forget to notice their pain.

And there's no need to be limited by a single technique. By layering different methods you can greatly reduce a client’s discomfort. Applying a variety of techniques will greatly enhance the chance that you'll find one that works for that particular person.

It's a good idea to suggest that all the good feelings and relief he notices while in hypnosis, will stay with him and the relief will continue when he awakens. This will ensure your subject has access to the feeling better state when he awakens.

Whichever way you approach hypnotic pain relief, always make sure you do thorough work and never use hypnosis to treat pain without permission in writing from the subject's doctor.

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Power Inductions Tutorial

This free video tutorial shows you exactly how to perform Rapid and Instant inductions. Use these inductions before you do pain management work or ANY other hypnotic work.

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