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Hypnotherapy for Pain Management

Use hypnosis to control chronic pain

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The use of medication to relieve pain can sometimes have side-effects almost as bad as the pain itself, and some people simply prefer a drug-free alternative.


The treatment or management of pain is perhaps one of the oldest applications of hypnotic techniques. The most well-known account is the work of John Esdaile who, whilst working in India in the mid-nineteenth century, carried out numerous major operations without chemical anaesthesia, apparently without any pain being experienced by his patients. In recent times, the use of hypnosis in the management of painful procedures has increased – particularly in dentistry and obstetrics.

Uses of hypnosis to control pain

Hypnosis is used for immediate pain relief in emergency situations, acute pain relief of longer duration caused by an organic condition, and the management of chronic pain. Hypnotic pain management methods may typically be used in the following medical contexts. 

  • Cancer pain relief & chemotherapy-related distress 

  • Uncomfortable medical procedures (such as injections, blood-taking and dressing of burns) 

  • Minor surgical procedures (such as ophthalmic surgery, endoscopy and liposuction) 

  • General surgery (where applications and benefits include anaesthesia, relaxing the patient, reducing the length of stay in hospital, reduction in postoperative pain, lowered blood loss, earlier mobility and more rapid healing) 

  • Dentistry 

  • Obstetrics & gynaecology - both labour and delivery 

  • Accident & emergency (in reducing pain and anxiety, and promoting rapid healing) 

  • Injuries (including orthopaedic injuries from sports accidents, falls, road traffic accidents, spinal injuries, burns and phantom limb pain following amputation) 

  • Miscellaneous illnesses and complaints (including degenerative illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, arthritic conditions, IBS, headaches, spinal conditions, lower back pain, neuralgia, fibromyalgia and joint pain).

About hypnosis and pain

Hypnosis works because the mind and body are connected and one affects the other. For instance, the brain triggers the release of the body's natural painkiller - endorphins (literally 'morphine within'). Hypnosis can communicate with the subconscious mind and allow us to control endorphin release and communicate with our autonomic nervous system which controls such involuntary functions as heart rate and digestion and plays a critical role in the relief of chronic pain. There is also neuroscientific evidence that chronic pain can become 'imprinted' on the brain, amplifying its enduring qualities and complicating its resolution. 

There have been many reports of soldiers in battle receiving serious injuries but remaining unaware of the injuries or the pain until the arousal due to the heat of battle has subsided, upon which the soldier notices the injury and pain is immediately felt. Until that point, the pain signals generated by the wound had not penetrated through to the conscious mind. In other words, it is the conscious mind that gives meaning to pain.

Techniques of pain management using hypnosis

Expectation can determine the extent of our pain - if we expect a dental treatment to be painful we are likely to experience pain strongly in that situation. Similarly, the mind can ameliorate pain and change the way the body reacts to a painful situation. Hypnosis can help relieve the fear of pain and help you go into a procedure, such as dentistry or childbirth, feeling much more relaxed and with a greater confidence - meaning the experience will be much less painful.


Visualisation using imagery of the desired outcomes can stimulate the release of endorphins which can reduce or eliminate pain. Deep relaxation will reduce stress levels which aggravate painful conditions, such as headaches or IBS. Even conditions that are not directly stress-related can be helped by relaxation as pain causes muscles to tense, which makes the pain worse. Distraction is commonly used to obstruct the perception of pain, for example a child may be easily distracted whilst a dreaded injection takes place - only to protest when it is realised that a trick has been played and the pain enters the consciousness. 

Hypnotherapists will often employ a technique of metaphor association, whereby the pain is given characteristics such as shape, size, colour, temperature and texture. The client is guided to imagine the metaphorical pain transforming into something more benign, so that after the session the actual pain will be reduced or eliminated. Under hypnosis, the client can experience sensations of being separated ('dissociated') from all or part of their body, including the pain. 

The pain may be either displaced away from the affected part or diminished in size to more manageable proportions. Hypnotic suggestions for numbness and pain relief may be given as an analgesic approach. 

Glove (or hand) anaesthesia is a technique where a feeling of numbness is induced in the client's hand which can then be transferred to the painful area of the body simply by placing the hand on that area. The client can be instructed in self-hypnosis techniques that can be used independently at any time.


You should not try to relieve your pain using hypnosis until the cause of the pain has been determined by a qualified doctor. Medical advice should be followed with regard to the diagnosis and treatment of the pain. Hypnotherapy can be used to complement normal medical treatment as part of a total pain-control programme. 

The use of hypnosis for pain management is of proven efficacy and is safe. It also confers to the patient a degree of independence and self-control. h2 NATURAL HEALTH, based in Alyth near Blairgowrie, is able to assist clients in Dundee, Angus, Perthshire and Tayside with various kinds of chronic pain problems – please contact to discuss.

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