Saturday, March 6, 2010

Hypnosis and Pain Management: Myth or Real? ( Part I)

            I remember I used to have headaches a few years back for about a year, they were quite painful and consistent, occurring at least once a month. Even two tablets of Advil wouldn’t help me rid those headaches. After while I figured that the only way to  stop such pain would be to put a cold wet towel over my forehead, close my eyes and drift into a sleep state. As a practicing Hypnotist I of course knew the tricks of making myself fall asleep despite any distractions or even insomnia. My self-hypnosis techniques always worked. I usually would use a part of a Dave Elman Induction by visualizing the numbers from 200 going down by one, after each number I would silently within myself say the words : deeper relaxed. Before I reached 170-150 I would quite naturally and unexpectedly enter a light state of trance and eventually fall asleep. Sometimes,  I would visualize golden strings graciously pulling the pain out of my head, just drawing it further away from my physical  awareness.  Next morning I would wake up feeling great, free of any pain and totally refreshed.

            James Esdaile, a Scottish surgeon was one of the pioneers in using Hypnosis for pain control. Esdaile performed about 3000 painless surgeries while working in India. There is one twist though: at that time ( beginning of 19th century) they weren’t using the word Hypnosis. The term Hypnosis was coined a little later in 1842 by another Scottish surgeon James Braid. Before that Hypnosis was known as…. Any guesses? Mesmerism, of course. This term originated with a well known Austrian physician and faithhealer Anton Mesmer. Just bear with me readers, don’t go away. Mesmerism is somewhat different from Hypnosis and yet very much the same. What was different about mesmerism, with which Esdale was able to perform so many painless surgeries? Mesmerism worked on the power of suggestion just like Hypnosis, however it worked because patients were lead to believe as if the doctor or a surgeon possessed some special power. That in turn would induce trance in patients.  Interestingly enough both Mesmer and Esdaile also believed in their special abilities to connect with some universal healing fluid. How entrancing!

Nowadays, of course we as hypnotists do not use any of these bogus stories to put our clients to trance. There are many inductions, breathing techniques, guided visualization and imagery that hypnotists use to achieve a receptive state of mind in a client. I think this is where the power of a good hypnotist lies: in the abilities to detect limiting beliefs, formulate proper suggestions and finally to induce trance to “install” these new suggestions in one’s  subconscious mind. In other words, clinical Hypnosis has nothing to do with any special mysterious or divine power of a Hypnotist. It is just a skill, which a good hypnotist acquires with practice and knowledge. By the way anyone could learn that, it just takes years of studying and practicing.

I use Hypnosis and NLP when I work with clients to help them stop stop addictions, with success motivation, weight loss and more. Most of the time, especially with smokers, you don’t need deep levels of trance,like theta or delta ( there are four known levels: beta-wake state,alpha- heightened state of focus, theta- trance state and delta- deep trance, coma).

When working with pain management I found that inducing deeper levels of trance (theta) and lingering there a bit longer  would really benefit the reduction of pain much more. While in those states I would usually guide clients into visualization of various metaphoric healing images (like strings, or cleansing water, or beams of light). Throughout this long lasting pleasant trance I would  give them very positive suggestions and sometimes very specific instructions to remove triggers and associations with pain.


So, what exactly is so powerful about these long lasting trance states?  I will chat about that in my next post. In the meantime, I welcome any questions or comments here.







Dr. Larry Deutsch said...

Hypnosis describes a natural state that we all experience daily. This kind of everyday hypnosis can take the form of being absorbed in work, a book or movie or in activities such as driving, playing a game or daydreaming. The sense of being in the zone that many athletes and artists speak about, also comes under the umbrella of everyday hypnosis.

Health Quest (HQBK) said...

Thanks for the great and useful post/article Pain Management

Victoria said...
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Elena Beloff said...

true indeed, Dr. Larry, great comparisons.

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