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Hypnotherapy and the Management of Pain.


If you are reading this and you are coping with a pain condition please know that

hypnotherapists are compassionate people and you will be met with understanding and

kindness if you choose to try hypnotherapy to help you with your pain. If you do not see an

answer to your question here please do get in touch with us here at Clinical Hypnotherapy School and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have about hypnosis and hypnotherapy.

Chronic pain is an issue for many of us. It is a horrible experience that affects virtually all

aspects of our lives. It affects the quality of our sleep, our daily activities, or social life and,

of course, our mood.

If this is you, we feel for you and hope you find this blog helpful and hopeful.

Over 27 million adults in the UK report living with chronic pain, that’s between one third

and a half of all adults.

(source https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/chronic-pain/background-information/prevalence/ )


Can hypnotherapy help with chronic pain?

The short answer is yes, hypnotherapy may well help someone manage their chronic pain.

Hypnotherapy is a well researched complementary therapy and evidence shows that many

people have found it helpful for their pain condition.

We encourage all our clients to talk with their doctor before having any complementary

therapy including hypnotherapy.

Chronic pain conditions can result from a range of causes, for example one may be left

with a pain condition following an injury or accident. Some illnesses cause pain, such as

degenerative conditions like arthritis or illnesses like irritable bowel syndrome or

inflammatory bowel disease. Conditions such as fibromyalgia, CFS and long covid may

also result in long term pain. The evidence-base for hypnosis in the management of

chronic pain is strong and also it seems that the effects of hypnosis may be far reaching

with many studies reporting additional improvements in sleep, emotional coping and

psychological well-being. The studies generally focus on pain associated with a specific

cause, but the overwhelming message is clear: hypnosis continues to be an effective way

of managing pain, almost always without negative side-effects and often with positive

additional psychological effects too.


Can hypnotherapy help with back pain?

Van Haudenhuyse and colleagues (2015) assessed the effectiveness of four treatments

for chronic pain: The results showed significant results for reduction in pain intensity were

found in the self-hypnosis group. In helping your manage your back pain your

hypnotherapist will most likely teach you self hypnosis techniques. This is a straightforward

thing to learn and your hypnotherapist is trained in teaching this technique.

Other techniques that may be used by your hypnotherapist include deep relaxation

techniques. Your hypnotherapist will discuss the techniques with you and together you can

decide what you think would work best for you.

Low back pain is a complex problem that benefits from a multi-disciplinary approach. You

will probably be looking at hypnosis for pain management whilst also working with your GP

and perhaps a physiotherapist (or similar practitioner) to address the underlying cause.


The research evidence shows of course that hypnosis is effective for pain management,

but that this multidisciplinary approach is the best way to keep the pain at bay.

Hypnotherapy is a complementary therapy, it works well within the framework of a team

approach working with you to help you find your solutions. (Tan et al., 2010).


How does hypnotherapy help with pain?

People often ask us

“does hypnosis work because the person is more relaxed and therefore less susceptible to

pain, or does it work because the person is distracted from the pain and therefore not

taking any notice of the pain?”

To answer this let’s look at some research.

A study by Kramer, Zims et al (2014) tested the hypothesis that hypnosis is not just

relaxation, but is instead a different state of mind, that enables pain to be tolerated better.

The researches looked at hypnosis and relaxation and the authors concluded that it was

the hypnosis that was affecting the pain perception, not the relaxation associated with the

hypnosis. So if hypnosis is more effective than relaxation, there must be something

happening within the brain where the pain is processed.

Does hypnosis work by being a distraction from the pain?

Another piece of research by Squintani et al (2018) was a study to see if distraction was

the mechanism by which hypnosis works to reduce pain perception or whether hypnosis

operates via a different neural mechanism. The participants in this study were living in

chronic pain and were given pain tests during a resting state (control condition), during

hypnosis, and during a period of distraction. What Squintani and his team found was that

the area of the brain particularly involved in pain perception showed a significant decrease

in activity during the hypnosis condition, compared with the control condition and the

distraction condition.

Another study, this time by Thompson et al (2019) conducted a meta-analysis of 85 eligible

trials, consisting of research reporting on 3632 participants. The meta-analysis found that

hypnosis has an analgesic effect for all pain outcomes.

Will hypnotherapy help me with my chronic pain?

You are the best judge of whether hypnotherapy is helping you with your pain. The

research shows that hypnotherapy is effective in a wide range of pain conditions and yet

we are all unique. Your hypnotherapist will discuss the therapy plan with you and this

includes how you will both be measuring the success of your hypnotherapy sessions. As a

rough guide, you should notice that something has got better after each and every session

and the effects of hypnotherapy are often also cumulative, so a course of sessions may be

helpful to you.

One of the factors that influences the outcome of hypnotherapy may be hypnotisability, talk

with a fully qualified hypnotherapist to see if this might be suitable for you.


Can hypnotherapy help children with pain conditions?

The evidence for the efficacy of using hypnosis in children in pain is strong. In 2012, Tome-

Pires and Miro conducted a systematic review of papers reporting the use of self-hypnosis

for pain control in children with cancer. They reviewed the results of 12 good-quality

research papers, and concluded that hypnosis is extremely effective as a pain-

management technique in children with cancer, and that this should be a vital part of the

treatment plan for all patients under the age of 18 years.

Again the preferred hypnosis technique is teaching the child self hypnosis, this helps the

child in forming a ‘toolbox for coping’ and children who use self hypnosis for pain have less

anxiety ((Kuttner, 2012). Children can be taught self-hypnosis techniques for pain quite

well. We advise choosing a hypnotherapist who has undertaken further training in working

with children.


Can hypnotherapy help with cancer pain?

The research of Spiegel and Bloom (1983) looked at hypnosis techniques directed

towards helping people manage their pain, stress and anxiety related to their cancer

illness, including hypnotic suggestions and instruction in self-hypnosis and this research

finding reported that participants found they had an overall decrease in their pain. Always

ask your specialist nurse or oncologist before having hypnotherapy for your cancer illness.

Your hospital may provide hypnotherapy as part of their oncology services, so it is worth

checking whether this is available in your area


Many people feel trapped in a cycle of pain and taking pain killers then coping with the

unwanted side effects of their pain killers. As we have mentioned before, always chat with

your doctor about your medication first. If you and your doctor decide this is right for you,

hypnotherapy may well help you achieve your goal.

Some people worry that, though no fault of their own, their pain condition has led them to

becoming addicted to painkillers. If this is you, know that help is at hand, your

hypnotherapist will be compassionate and non judgmental, we know this is an unwanted

side effect of being in pain and we recognise that people are doing their best in life. Reach

out to your doctor and to us to see if we can help you.

Here is a quote from an article written by O’Keefe & Tracie, ”Clinical Hypnotherapy for

Stopping Drug and Alcohol Addiction: Building Resilience in Clients to Reduce Relapses

and Remain Clean and Sober.” Published in the Australian Journal of Clinical

Hypnotherapy and Hypnosis. (2020)

“Clinical hypnotherapy is a powerful promoter of mental and behavioural change that can

help clients experiencing out-of-control alcohol and drug use or addiction to move towards

sobriety and recovery--fast--by assisting deep, unconscious change. In clinical practice

success rates clearly increase specifically according to the hypnotherapist's level of

training, experience..”

If you would like to know more, please do get in touch with us here, click on ‘contact us’ or

email us at admin@clinicalhypnotherapyschool.com


We are happy to answer any questions you may have. We are also happy to direct you to

one of our recommended hypnotherapists trained in management of pain techniques.

We hope you have found this blog helpful and you are feeling more hopeful about finding

the right solutions for you to live a more comfortable life.

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