Can hypnotherapy help with migraines?
Migraines. Anyone who has experienced them can tell you: they are so much more than ‘just a headache’. Often described as a moderate or severe headache, typically felt via a throbbing pain on one side of your head, many who have migraines also experience symptoms such as increased light or sound sensitivity, as well as feeling (or being) sick. With around one in five women, and one in 15 men experiencing migraines, how frequently someone has them can vary from every now and then to several times in a single week.
The cause of migraines is still widely unknown, though it is thought it may be hereditary or could be affected by temporary changes in the chemicals, blood vessels, and nerves in your brain. While the exact cause may be unclear, common triggers can include:
- stress – ongoing, or a recent increase in feelings of stress and/or overwhelm
- tiredness or general exhaustion
- recently starting your period
- consuming certain foods or drinks
While there is currently no cure, many people find that laying down in a darkened room, sleeping, and/or over the counter painkillers can help to reduce symptoms. Making lifestyle changes, such as eating, sleeping, and exercising regularly, as well as decreasing your caffeine and alcohol intake can also help.
But are there other ways you can manage symptoms and reduce your perceived levels of pain?
Hypnotherapy for pain management
When we talk about pain, we are usually referring to one of two different types: acute or chronic. Acute, or short-term pain, is typically caused by a temporary illness or accident. Chronic, or long-term pain, may not have an obvious cause or may stem from a medical condition (such as migraines or cluster headaches), meaning that treatment can be a little more complex.
If you are experiencing any kind of pain and are uncertain as to the cause, it’s important to speak with your GP to get a diagnosis and any additional help and support that may be needed. They may also be able to advise on gentle exercises that can act as a natural form of pain relief, as well as any medication that may be beneficial to your specific needs.
Hypnosis can act as an important, additional element of pain management. Focusing on the connection between your body and mind, hypnotherapy can help some people experiencing long-term pain by lessening common side effects such as stress and anxiety. When we feel pain over a prolonged period of time, it can naturally feel stressful and cause us to feel more anxious. Over time, our mind can start linking how we are feeling mentally with how we are physically feeling – causing our perception of how much pain we are experiencing to feel even worse. By reducing our stress levels and changing our thought patterns around pain, we can begin to alter our perception of pain.
Through hypnosis, a hypnotherapist can help you to enter a state of deep relaxation where your mind is open to the power of suggestion. This allows them to make suggestions that can encourage pain relief, help you to manage fear and anxiety relating to your pain, as well as to reduce stress and promote relaxation. Often, hypnotherapists will also suggest self-hypnosis techniques you can try between sessions to help reinforce these new thought patterns.
Using visualisation techniques, hypnosis can also help you to refocus your mind. Rather than focusing on pain, these techniques can help you to instead focus on something more pleasant that can provide a distraction.
Does hypnosis really help with pain?
Hypnotherapy can have a positive impact on some people. However, the effects can vary greatly from person to person. It’s important to approach hypnosis with an open mind. For those who do see a benefit from hypnotherapy, it’s important to note that it offers a natural, side effect-free, complementary method of helping to manage chronic pain.
As hypnotherapist Jasminka explains, hypnosis, when combined with other forms of treatment such as cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy, can have a significant impact on managing pain.
“Hypnosis can help migraine sufferers to manage the physiological responses associated with migraines and can induce a deep sense of relaxation and well-being. This counteracts the triggers of stress and anxiety.
“Starting treatment with talking therapy to identify individual trigger situations and stressors, therapist and client can then work to find appropriate solutions and coping strategies. Those can then be refused in hypnosis in order to try them out, and can also help bring about or enhance feelings of control.”
Studies have also found that hypnosis can have positive effects on treating chronic pain. One study, which looked at the results of 13 other studies, found that hypnosis consistently helps to decrease pain associated with a variety of chronic pain problems. Hypnosis and self-hypnosis were found to be more effective than other forms of intervention, including physical therapy, education, and attention.
Another meta-analysis of studies in 2000 looked into the results of 18 different studies, revealing 75% of participants experiencing pain felt substantial pain relief from using hypnotic techniques.
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