Background: chronic pain and hypnotherapy
A study by Imperial College, in 2016, found that 43% of the UK population suffer from chronic pain, with 1 in 10 saying they found it severely disabling. This issue is only set to get worse as our population ages. But what can be done to stop our reliance on painkillers and help people live a better quality of life?
Hypnotherapy can afford great comfort to those suffering with chronic pain. In fact, used as part of a robust pain management regime it can truly make all the difference. Here we’re looking at the ways that hypnotherapy could help you cope better with pain in your life.
What is chronic pain?
Chronic pain is pain that lasts for a long time. Definitions of the amount of time vary, but generally doctors tend to describe chronic pain as pain that last 3 to 6 months or more. Although people can often suffer for many years, without finding a solution.
Of course, feeling pain is completely normal, it is the body’s way of telling us that it is injured or that something is up. We feel pain when nerves send messages to our brain and our brain tells us that there is a problem. What shouldn’t be normal, is for this pain to last a long period of time. Once the body’s ‘damage’ is fixed, the nerves should stop firing and the pain should go away. With chronic pain this is not the case.
Chronic pain can affect someone every day or come and gowith some days better than others. It can occur due to a past injury, migraines, back pain, nerve damage or infection, as well as because of conditions such as arthritis or fibromyalgia.This kind of pain can feel different for different people and can have a real effect on not just a person’s daily life, but on their mental health too.
Can hypnotherapy help?
There are many examples from throughout history, of where various forms of hypnosis have been used to cope better with pain. In fact, until the 19th century, hypnosis was the only way that surgery could be undertaken comfortably.
It has been noted that we, as a species, are able to enter a trance-like state when we are under extreme stress. Clinicians report dissociation from pain, decreased bleeding and reduced infection in these situations and it is thought there may be an evolutionary explanation for this as we seek to protect ourselves from ‘danger’. And it’s this ability to naturally enter a trance-like state that is tapped into during hypnotherapy.
Elsewhere, the numbers of women choosing to use hypnobirthing to experience a calmer, less painful birthing experience is on the rise across the country. The anecdotal evidence is mounting.
So, how does it work?
Hypnotherapy in this context is about giving someone an internal focus of attention, allowing them to relax and let go of distracting thoughts. This can make them highly responsive to suggestion. If the suggestions made by the hypnotherapist are positive and affirmative they can help to change the way an episode of pain is perceived.
If you had suffered chronic pain for a number of years, simply the thought that it will never abate can be enough to cause a downwards negative spiral. You may lose the belief that things could get better. Hypnotherapy for chronic pain is about reconnecting sufferers with the idea that things can be improved; life doesn’t always have to be the same way.
Advances in brain imaging and other scanning techniques mean that scientists have been able to see the effect of hypnosis on the brain. They’ve identified that it changes activity in the anterior cingulate cortex which links the limbic (associated with emotions) and sensory areas of the brain. Put simply, hypnotherapy for pain relief can allow a sensation that is usually experienced as painful to no longer have the suffering or negative emotions associated with it.
In summary, hypnotherapy allows people to positively change their perceptions of the pain they are experiencing. One of the problems with medical pain management is that the brain gets used to pain-killing drugs, meaning it needs higher and higher doses to have the same effect. Hypnosis works in acompletely different way by helping the brain to stop responding to pain signals. Which means it can be used successfully for as long as necessary, with no adverse side effects.
The best way to use hypnotherapy for pain management is topractise the skills learned during sessions. That way you will be able to use them wherever and whenever you need them.
Some words of warning
Pain is an important bodily response. Before using hypnosis to address this we must be sure that the cause of the pain is understood and addressed. Pain should never be dismissed as ‘all in the mind’. You should always raise concerns about your health with your GP and follow their advice. Hypnotherapy can work well as part of your overall pain management plan.
To talk about how hypnotherapy could help with your chronic pain, book a complimentary 15 minute call with me.