Can therapy really reduce pain?
As a pain relief specialist, coming across disbelief is an almost daily experience. Surely just talking to somebody can't take away their pain? Many people say I have had my pain for years; it can't be that easy can it?
The truth is there is an ever-growing body of research to prove that yes it really does work. Scepticism is only natural, after being given drugs that have variable effectiveness and possible side effects or some people just being told that this is their new reality and they just have to 'live with it', it can naturally feel like offering pain relief with just a conversation, is just too good to be true.
At the end of this article I have cited scientific links so you too can go look them up if you're interested and see that it's not just some fanciful claim by a therapist, but a scientifically backed evidence-based approach.
So, first of all, I'll explain the two types of pain relief, what the difference in them is and then I'll explain how what I offer works, as well as my own personal experience, belief and opinions and as I aforementioned I will cite the scientific research at the end of this article, so even the most cynical can see that therapy does indeed work for pain relief.
There are two types of pain relief; hypno-analgesia and long-term pain relief.
Hypno-analgesia vs. Long-term pain relief
Hypno-analgesia is very much what it sounds like. It numbs an area of the body, much like chemical analgesia. It has been used for many years and is still used today in dentistry, for people getting tattoo's and even in surgery, in countries that do not have easy access to chemical analgesia, as a genuine alternative or when the patient has an allergy to chemical analgesia. The fact that it can and has been used in major surgery shows the power of this approach. Now the downside of this approach is the suggestion does not last long term, often lasting only hours, it numbs the area, so although useful in the above examples, for some medical conditions it could 'mask' the problem and for long term pain relief the client would need to be taught how to self hypnotise to make this a continually effective process. It is for this reason we have the other type of pain relief.
Long term pain relief is very different from the above. This does not numb an area; it does not stop 'new' pain. It would not be useful for dentistry or tattoos. So what is it used for? This form of therapy is ideal for those that have been in pain with long term conditions, giving pain relief from arthritis, old sports injuries, fibromyalgia and more. By reducing and in many cases removing the pain from these conditions and more, it can have a positive impact on peoples lives. Previous clients of mine have reported having more energy, better moods, an improved social life, a better sex life, easier physical movements, sleeping better and more.
The other advantage is because it does not numb the area, it gets rid of or reduces old pain that you know longer need, it means if there are any new issues or even old issues that have been masked by that old pain, you will be made aware of them and can seek medical advice. Old pain is often unnecessary as do you really need to be in that much pain to tell you every day not to overexert your body? Would you remember with less or even no pain? Plus if you do over exert yourself, your body would remind you as this would be new pain, which would go as soon as you stopped doing that. So how does this work? Well read on and I'll explain.
When we feel pain, it isn't 'felt' in the body but actually in the brain. When we injure our hand, for instance, fibrous nerves send a signal, that travels to our spine, up to our brain, our amygdala and finally processed in the cortex, the brain then decides how urgent it is to let you know about it and the level of pain you should receive.
If this sounds incredible, think about those injured in war, often they are unaware of pain or even injury during the heat of battle, their brain quite correctly judges that survival is more important than attending to the injury, as soon as it judges appropriate to do so, the soldier suddenly realises that they are in pain. As well as you'll know people who seem to be very tolerant of pain and others who would act like the world is ending from a paper cut. Their body is following the same process and sending the signals, they are just interpretations of their circumstances differently.
You have probably also heard of phantom limb pain, where the patient reports pain in a limb that is no longer there. Now under brain scans the area of the brain that fires when we are in pain is lit up, they really are experiencing physical pain, but they don't even have the limb let alone the nerve fibres to send the signal, so how can that be? Well as I said pain isn't 'felt' in the body but created in the brain, which then tells you what part hurts and by how much.
So why is this important?
Well, the brain is a giant electrical chemical machine in effect; one which thought activates, changes and effects, try not to think of a pink elephant, what comes to mind? If you think of your favourite food (assuming you don't have it with you right now), could you imagine tasting it? Smelling it? Holding it? If you can, you have just proven to yourself that your brain can create things with only your thoughts. If it’s not there in front of you, your imagination created any of those sensations (interesting most people can do at least one, some can do two and if you can imagine holding, tasting and smelling it, you are a rare and amazing individual, so well done).
So if we can change things with thought, you're probably already ahead of me on how we can reduce or remove pain.
The other thing that hypnotherapy is very good at is lowering anxiety and stress. There is a growing mountain of evidence that shows a clear correlation between anxiety, stress and the number of pain people reported feeling. So the higher the level of anxiety and stress the worse the pain 'felt' to the test subjects and indeed on some tests they deliberately raised and lowered their reported stress factors and found this had a direct correlation to the amount of pain the test subject reported being in.
So hypnotherapy helps on many fronts. By changing the perception of the pain in the brain, by reducing its urgency, by lowering and reducing anxiety and stress which have both been linked to being beneficial in lowering reported pain and by helping the client to create a new pain reality, remembering if we can all feel pain differently these are painful realities we created without external professional help. So with a trained professional hypnotherapist, you can have much more control over what experience of pain you have.
Now scepticism is natural, is this wonderful panacea that will work for everybody? The simple answer is no, but it does work for the vast majority of people, in fact, one of the methodologies I use reported a 94% success rate and has the evidence to back this up.
What about the science behind this? Well as promised at the end of this article I have attached names of research and when it was done so anybody can look up and find for themselves all the evidence they need. So even the most cynical amongst us can see that there is some evidence in hypnotherapy for pain relief and this is just one avenue I have to help you reduce or remove your pain.
There is even more research out there. So when you are ready to feel better, why not give a hypnotherapist a call to discuss how hypnotherapy could help you.
Lang, E. V., & Rosen, M. P. (2002). Cost analysis of adjunct hypnosis with sedation during outpatient interventional radiologic procedures. Radiology, 222, pp. 375-82.
Lynn, S. J., Kirsch, I., Barabasz, A., Cardeña, E., & Patterson, D. (2000). Hypnosis as an empirically supported clinical intervention: The state of the evidence and a look to the future. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Vol. 48, pp. 235-255.
Montgomery, G. H., DuHamel, K. N., & Redd, W. H. (2000). A meta-analysis of hypnotically induced analgesia: how effective is hypnosis? International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Vol. 48, pp. 138-153.
Patterson, D. R., & Jensen, M. P. (2003). Hypnosis and clinical pain. Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 129, pp. 495-521.
Rainville, P., Carrier, B., Hofbauer, R. K., Bushnell, M. C., & Duncan, G. H. (1999). Dissociation of sensory and affective dimensions of pain using hypnotic modulation. Pain, Vol. 82, pp. 159-71.
Dinges et al., 1997; Elkins et al., 2004; Gay et al., 2002; Haanen et al., 1991; Jensen et al., 2005; McCauley et al., 1983; Simon & Lewis, 2000; Spiegel & Bloom, 1983; Spinhoven & Linssen, 1989; Winocur et al., 2002 Jensen & Barber, 2000 Patterson & Jensen, 2003
References are taken from the National Library of Medicine and the American Psychology Association.