Hypnotic Approaches to Pain Relief

Hypnosis as a healing technique can be used for pain relief in a number of ways in clinical practice:

(a) Firstly, remember that all pain states have a muscle-tension component because the natural reaction of the physical body to pain is to splint or hold the painful parts of the body still. This brings about muscle tension and contributes to the discomfort. Yypnosis or an altered state of consciousness is associated with relaxation. As part of the hypnotic process, the muscles in the body will let go of their tension. Relaxing tight muscles removes the discomfort and brings about relief of that part of the pain contributed by muscle tension.

(b) Secondly, pain relief can be obtained through a dissociative approach. Hypnosis helps the patient to be creative in distancing themselves mentally from the pain. Some patients for instance, takes the pain and put it on a shelf somewhere. Other patients may devise a barrier between themselves and the pain, almost as if they are looking at the pain from outside.

(c) Thirdly, the sensation of pain can be substituted by other sensations while the patient is under hypnosis. The patient can be facilitated to substitute his pain for a more pleasant kind of feeling, such as numbness, warmth or pressure.

(d) A fourth approach is to give the pain an image with a shape, size and colour. By helping the patient to voluntarily change the size or colour of the image under hypnosis, the patient may be able to achieve pain relief.

(e) A fifth group of technique involves the use of "pain switches" or "pain rheostats" that can be created under trance. Once created, the pain can be switched off or reduced by a sliding switch at will.

(Source: Marlene Hunter, "Creative Scripts for Hypnotherapy", 1994)