Sunday, 31 August 2014

Can hypnosis really help with pain management?

Pain is an important indication that some part of our body needs attention. Once you discover what is wrong, the pain might no longer be necessary. So what do you do if it just won’t go away?

Pain serves a vital purpose in keeping us safe and in allowing us to minimize damage to our bodies (i.e. rapidly removing our hands from a hot burner or as a post-surgery reminder to take it easy while recovering).  Unfortunately, all too often, pain outlives its usefulness.  If you are a chronic pain sufferer, you may wish to see a hypnotherapist.

Working with a hypnotherapist can help you to decrease discomfort and live better.  For some clients, this seems both almost magical and impossible.  While there is no magic involved, it is completely possible to use hypnosis to eliminate and/or minimize the perception of pain.  Before beginning with a hypnotherapist, it is important that underlying causes be first addressed by a medical professional to ensure that the pain is not indicating other issues that need attention.

Your hypnotherapist will work with you to recognize what exacerbates the pain and to develop plans to avoid those things (for example, avoiding gluten if you suffer from celiac disease).   It is also important that you recognize these triggers so that you can start using the pain reduction techniques as soon your symptoms start.

Hypnosis for pain management is the ultimate example of the mind-body connection.   Once the triggers are recognized, the hypnotherapist can then help reduce or remove your perception of pain. Pain is a subjective experience; it is how we interpret the signals from our body that determines how severe we experience the pain. The hypnotist can help you interpret the signals differently, in some cases turning them off completely, and help reduce the stress and fear surrounding the pain. Just as stress can increase the intensity of pain, new coping mechanisms can help reduce the severity of the pain.  

The hypnotist may use imagery, which is known to stimulate the release of endorphins, or other techniques, to create a state of relaxation that can help alleviate your symptoms.  Several conditions, such as IBS, chronic back pain or migraines, can be exacerbated by tension in your muscles. An analogy of this approach is how a needle hurts a lot less when your muscles are relaxed.  Hypnosis can also allow you to be distracted, create a time distortion (so time does not seem so long) or to basically put yourself into a trance during medical procedures to enhance your level of comfort.  It can increase your confidence in your ability to handle the situation, which will decrease your stress level.

Some interesting examples of hypnosis for pain management:

  • In the 1800’s, James Esdaile used hypnosis as his only anesthetic in performing hundreds of operations, including amputations, in a Calcutta prison. 
  • In 2003, David Suzuki had a one-hour special entitled “Hypnosis, a Window into the Mind”, in which he highlighted a hospital in Liege, Brussels that performed over 3500 surgeries using only hypnosis for anesthesia. In only 18 of those surgeries, did they have to use general anesthesia. 
  • Here in Ottawa, mentalist Jaymes White successfully demonstrated the use of hypno-anesthesia when he inserted a needle into the arm of a young gentleman in front of a sold-out show in the Shenkman Arts Centre.  The young gentleman felt absolutely no pain. 

If you suffer from ongoing chronic pain, talk to your medical team about getting a referral for hypnosis. 

For Further Reading:

Hypnosis and migraines will be discussed in greater detail in a future blog posting.

Visit my site ( for more articles, including the use of hypnosis and pain control for colonoscopies, cancer patients, burn clients, teeth grinding/TMJ)

Derrick Barnes,Registered Social Worker
Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist


  1. Hi, I appreciate your blog. I like to share. Most hypnotherapists have patients gaze at a settled article, infrequently simply a hued thumbtack stuck in a divider. The trance specialist then depicts unwinding pictures, for example, a stroll along a shoreline, and asks the patient to concentrate on those pictures. Next, he utilizes symbolism and recommendations to shut out or change pain, for example, "Secure away the pain in the container in the cellar of a relinquished house." Thanks a lot.