Chronic Pain

Hypnosis and Pain Relief

Hypnosis for Pain Relief

We have all seen the theatrical presentation of the hypnotist on stage who “mesmerizes” several stout looking male volunteers and gets them to do something foolish.  Then, with a snap of his fingers, the men revert to normal without any memory of what just happened.

That is NOT what I will be speaking to you about in this monograph. This monograph will be a scientific look at hypnosis and pain relief – does it really work?

Perhaps you have several questions about hypnosis such as, “Isn’t it dangerous to “open my mind” to a hypnotist?” Or perhaps, “Does God want me to use hypnotism as a means of therapy?”

Or perhaps you have even wondered,”Will the hypnotist be able to insert thoughts into my mind that I find objectionable or distasteful?”

After reading this article you will be able to answer those questions for yourself.  As in all my postings, my intention is to give you the information you need to be able to make your own decisions about a therapy and “take charge” of your own pain relief.

How Does Hypnosis Work?


Hypnosis is an intermediate state of consciousness (called a trance in deep hypnosis), characterized by heightened susceptibility to suggestion. Not all people are prone to deep hypnosis.

There is a certain type of person who will benefit the most from hypnosis.  The likelihood is that their neuro-physiology (the study of the function of the nervous system) responds to hypnotic instructions for disattention (the process of the deliberate refusal to pay attention to certain things).

The ability to dis-attend to stimuli, both internal and external, is both genetic and an act of the will.  For hypnosis to have the most benefit a person must score “high” on the testing instruments that measure their “suggestibility.”

Tests for “suggestibility” are usually administered by research clinicians who evaluate their findings on people hypnotized according to whether a study participant rates “high” or “low” on these testing instruments.

However, nearly everyone with chronic pain can benefit from hypnotic therapy.  Many hypno-therapists will not pre-test for suggestibility.

They will simply teach the process to anyone who may need the benefit that hypnosis may render.Furthermore, the ability to be hypnotized or self-hypnotize has been shown to improve over time.

There is a training effect when it comes to hypnosis.  

So even if you are not initially “suggestible,” you can improve the effect that hypnosis may have on you by practicing it.

Analysis of the blood flow in certain areas of the brain has been shown to be effected with analgesic hypnosis (hypnosis that causes pain relief).  The area of the brain that is most often reported is in the anterior frontal cortex (the forehead area on the surface of the brain).

In people who rate “high” for hypnotic suggestion, they register an increase in the blood flow to the anterior frontal cortex of the brain as their pain decreases.

Other studies have shown that the electrical activity of the brain also changes when hypnotic analgesia is occurring. A common way to measure brain electrical activity is with an Electroencephalogram (EEG).

An EEG requires the person being hypnotized to wear wire electrodes applied to the skin of the head.  In people that experience hypnotic analgesia the brain wave activity tended to reflect more theta wave activity than in the people that did not experience pain relief.

four categories of brain wave patterns

These brain physiologic changes, that have been measured, are thought to be due to an increase in the inhibitory activity of  hypnosis on the brain.

The inhibitory activity of hypnosis causes  a reduction in the perception of pain and subsequent reduction in measured pain.

What Can Hypnosis Treat ?

The following disorders have been shown to be positively effected with hypnotic therapy:

  • In the treatment of chronic pain disorders
  • In the treatment of addictions
  • In the treatment of phobias
  • In the treatment of sleep disorders
  • In the treatment of depression
  • In the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder
  • In the treatment of anger management
  • In the treatment of grief
  • In the treatment of obesity
  • In the treatment of smoking
  • In the pursuit of repressed memories

Hypnosis has also been used in reducing pain after surgery, reducing the pain of child birth, and even performing surgery without anesthesia.

By effecting the perception of pain in the brain (the location where all pain is processed and perceived) nearly any condition that causes pain could be potentially treated with hypnosis.

What are The Potential Problems with Hypnosis ?

There are certain cautionary recommendations with hypnotic therapy.  People who are prone to altered processed thinking, such as in a psychotic state, are not advised to undergo hypnosis.

A hypnotic state may provoke worsening delusions or hallucinations in people who are prone to psychosis.

Hypnosis is also not recommended in people with active hallucinations from drugs or alcohol. Detoxification is recommended prior to instituting hypnotic therapy.

A caveat in using hypnosis for repressed memories should also be reminded.  There is a risk of “false memories” being created with deep hypnotic analysis.

Finally, in people with dissociative disorders (such as multiple personality disorder), hypnotic therapy is not recommended as it may provoke spontaneous dissociation. In other words, hypnosis could provoke the person prone to slipping in and out of different personalities to do so unexpectedly.

Finally Remarks

I have reviewed the physiology, indications, and precautions in using hypnotic analgesia.

It is very clear that this form of therapy may be very effective in reducing chronic pain in the patient that has a proclivity for hypnotic therapy.

The hypnotic state requires willful participation of the person involved.  This precludes the likelihood of “thought insertion” against one’s will.

Regarding whether the Lord would want you to use hypnotherapy for yourself…you will need to examine the Word of God and pray for that answer.  However, I see no imminent threat to your faith if, after seeking the Lord’s will in prayer, you decide to give hypnotism a try for your chronic pain.


I hope you have found this monograph insightful, provocative and useful.

If you have further questions or comments, please leave it below.

Wishing you healing and joy,

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