Clinical Hypnosis and Its Benefit for Pain Management
Ron Eslinger, RN, CRNA, APN, MA, BCH, CMI
Modern Hypnosis and Its Benefit for Pain Management
We are not a patient society. We all want everything right now. We’re instant oatmeal, instant grits, instant coffee and instant pudding! We’re instant everything, aren’t we? And one of the things that I’ve noticed about pain management is that it actually can be instant. Just turn off the pain without surgery and without pills. It sounds like magic, but it isn’t. It’s based on scientific methods and the body’s ability to heal itself quickly while working with the subconscious mind.
What grabbed my attention most about hypnosis in my early career were the positive dramatic effects I observed with chronic pain patients. The majority of people observed noticeable pain relief right away. Many patients experienced total relief from pain.
How does it work so fast and so well? Imagine you are injured. Your nervous system sends a signal to your brain communicating the message that an injury has taken place. The brain takes the electrical impulse and relays it to the endocrine system where hormones and neurotransmitters come into play. At that point, cells begin communicating with one another and your brain formulates how to proceed. The most important part of this scenario is that the process begins with a simple electrochemical message.
Until that electrochemical message reaches the brain, there is no pain!
The beauty of hypnosis for pain management is the ability to interrupt that electrochemical message before it reaches the brain. Experiencing hypnosis is a natural ability that exists to some degree within every human being. That means we have the ability to reduce the use of medications or even eliminate them completely by utilizing hypnosis. Unlike medications, hypnosis has no side effects nor is it addictive. Discomfort is reduced to different degrees in different people and the result is obtained safely and naturally.
Hypnosis permits a higher level of functioning and enhances the healing process while allowing people to remain active. Progress is greatly influenced by the expectation of wellness for a positive outcome. It advances the experience of comfort and lessens anxiety and fear, which are very important factors in facilitating recovery or at least in minimizing a decline in health.
The Challenge of Individual Pain Management
This article explores how hypnosis is used effectively for the relief of chronic pain. The pain experience is multifactorial, affecting individuals physically, psychologically, sociologically, and spiritually. Through the exploration of pain and its many facets, I touch on the basic principles behind why hypnosis is effective.
There are four elements of the pain experience. Physical, Psychological, Sociological, Spiritual.
Michael Yapko states that hypnosis is a fascinating domain of clinical research and practice. It involves the study of how seemingly ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things by using their minds. The mind is used to focus on mental images, thoughts, and ideas that influence the human body’s response in very special ways.
From Mesmer’s studies and Braid’s practices, we know there is a great deal of flexibility in what the mind experiences. Individuals become so deeply absorbed in their daily life experiences that they permit their bodies to become more comfortable, even in the presence of injury. This is the foundation of hypnotic analgesia and hypnotic anesthesia. The ability to make the body more comfortable represents the most sophisticated use of hypnosis.
Hypnotic analgesia is the use of hypnosis to reduce or diminish bodily sensations. It allows for a decrease in the pain sensation. A more powerful tool for pain management is hypnotic anesthesia, which refers to the total elimination of sensations and pain, allowing for complete relief of symptoms. This complete relief of pain leads to a common misconception about pain management through hypnosis: People assume that if pain exists and the pain is reduced through hypnosis, then the pain is psychological; in other works, the pain is in your head. Therefore the pain is not real.
Nothing is further from the truth. Hypnotic anesthesia eliminates real pain. For example, hypnosis has been reported as the sole anesthetic in major surgical procedures (hypnotic anesthesia). Resent research also advocates the use of hypnosis prior to surgery to lessen pain, shorten hospital stays, and reduce subsequent nausea and vomiting. The incision and physical effects of surgery are obviously quite real and often dramatic. The elimination of the sensations and pain of surgery through the use of hypnosis is equally real. Regardless of the situation, the application of hypnosis is routine. The same principles used to apply hypnotic anesthesia for surgical patients are also used in numerous situations to help people manage chronic pain, end addictions, and eliminate fears. These useful applications of hypnosis are discussed in more detail later in this book.
Hypnosis as an adjunct to medicine and surgery allows one to decrease pain and enhance healing. Often, a person with chronic pain may feel victimized and helpless. Hypnosis gives the person greater self-control. This self-control decreases the fight-or-flight response. Self-control also decreases the level of stress hormones. Both the reduction in fight-or-flight and the decrease in stress hormones can lead to a significant decrease in pain.
If you have experienced hypnosis, you know that hypnosis is nothing more than focus and concentration. Hypnosis allows one to comfortably and easily set aside all of the demands and pressures of everyday life. If you have never experienced hypnosis before, I can safely say you will truly enjoy the experience. It feels good and more important, it opens the doors to a new perspective for making healthy changes in your life. In my early career during the late 1970s, many of my clients compared their feelings while under hypnosis with the sensations they had when they were smoking marijuana. You can decide for yourself.