Hypnosis for The Relief and Control of Pain

Hypnosis is a technique or procedure used to enhance concentration, heighten responsiveness to suggestions to changes a person’s thoughts, feelings, behavior or psychological state.

What it’s not

It is neither a type of psychotherapy nor a treatment (in and of itself). It is a procedure used to aid treatments and therapies.

Patients’ response

People vary in the extent to which they respond to hypnosis.

To be hypnotized, a person has to be hypnotizable to an extent – which is a stable and dependable individual difference trait that indicates one’s openness to suggestions

Studies on hypnosis

Research has shown that hypnosis works as part of a treatment plan for a wide range of diseases and conditions. Pain relief is one of the most widely investigated areas. The APA cites a 2000 study by psychologists Steven Lynn, PhD, Irving Kirsch, PhD, Arreed Barabasz, PhD, Etzel Cardeña, PhD, and David Patterson, PhD.

Pain relief and other benefits

Among the benefits of hypnosis is "the ability to alter the psychological components of the experience of pain that may then have an effect on even severe pain."

The evidence for the efficiency of hypnosis to reduce pain sensitivity (hypno-analgesia) has been improved by well-controlled experiments.

Dr. Patterson and fellow psychologist Mark Jensen, PhD, discovered in their 2003 review of controlled clinical studies that hypno-analgesia is has a link to significant reductions in the following:

  1. ratings of pain
  2. need for analgesics
  3. nausea and vomiting
  4. length of stay in hospitals

Hypnosis has also been linked to better general outcome after medical treatment, as well as better physiological stability.

Surgeons and other health care providers have also reported a significant increase in satisfaction with their patients who underwent hypnosis than with their other patients.


Hypnotic suggestions (depending on how hypnotherapists phrase them) may have an effect on the sensory and/or affective components of pain and related brain areas.

This is evidenced by a brain imaging research of psychologist Pierre Rainville, PhD, and collaborators in 1999.

Patients who are most open to hypnotic suggestions (or more hypnotizable in other words), experience the best and most lasting relief from the procedure, but people with moderate receptiveness also show improvement.

Factors that could affect a patient’s responsiveness include motivation and compliance with treatment.


 Dr. Patterson and Dr. Jensen’s 2003 review concluded that hypnotic techniques for alleviating acute pain (caused by tissue damage) are better than standard care and/or other recognizable treatments for pain.

Also, a 2002 cost analysis done by radiologists Elvira Lang, MD and Max Rosen, MD, which compared intravenous conscious sedation with hypnotic sedation during radiology treatment, discovered that intravenous conscious sedation cost twice as much as hypnotic sedation.

Chronic pain usually involves interrelated psychosocial factors and needs more complex treatments than acute pain.

Dr. Patterson and Dr. Jensen’s review found that in the case of chronic pain, hypnosis is consistently better than receiving no treatment, and comparable to other procedures that also use suggestion for competing sensations which include relaxation and autogenic training (similar to self-hypnotism).

Source:  Psychology Matters


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