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Pain Management and Hypnotherapy

Pain Management and Hypnotherapy

The concept of pain is something that we can all understand. From the very moment we are born, pain is something that we experience on a fairly regular basis. I think that it is safe to say that most people believe that pain is something that we have to live with. This being the case, a variety of health care professionals and drugs companies make a tremendous revenue in helping us to artificially control pain. However, within the last 100 years, hypnosis has had an important part to play in the control of pain. Sadly, the public perception about using hypnosis for pain relief is still considered some type of “magic” or to do with the occult. In the past 50 years this perception has, thankfully, been changing for the better. we will discuss some of the major contributors to this change of attitude throughout the seminar. I would like to acknowledge, at this stage, the pioneering work of Ernest Hilgard, Ph.D, and Josephine Hilgard, M.D., Ph.D. and that of Dave Elman. Much of this article is based around the work and findings of these hypnotic researchers.

Pain and Suffering

To understand pain, we must first recognise the fact that it is a paradox. Pain can be beneficial and harmful sometimes. If a person steps barefoot on a piece of glass and it hurt, the resulting pain is a sign that there is something to be avoided or that some damage has been done and it needs to be repaired. This kind of information is useful because the site of the damage can be located and, more importantly, something can be done about it. For example the glass fragment can be removed and medical attention can be sought.

There have been studies of the beneficial results of pain. The BBC recently aired a programme about children who felt no pain stimuli. Those who have not seen the programme, the up shot is that pain is part of human development and learning processes. These type of persons show no known physical basis for their pain deficiency. The damage that these persons can do is themselves is almost limitless, burning one’s hand on the stove, biting off parts of their tongues or fingers, and damaging their nostrils by picking away at them, are all potential damages that these persons face. This lack of pain can, in severe cases lead to death.

The other part of the paradox is that pain is not useful, as pain comes too late. Many diseases like heart disease and some types of cancer come on without the prior warning of pain. When pain eventual occurs, it is many times too late to warn the sufferer.

Chronic pain, which really serves no useful purpose, beyond being unpleasant, may be destructive and incapacitating. This type of pain can lead to depression, deleterious effects on the heart and kidneys, disturb gastric and colonic processes, and upset heart rate and blood pressure.  The consequences of this pain can be reduced job performance and a reduced quality of life.

The experiences of pain and suffering can be characterised in two ways. The first is to assume that sensory pain is like any other perceptual response to irritation or injury. It tells one the location and intensity of whatever may be the source.  If this is the primary experience, there is a secondary experience, an experience of distress, expressed by a crying out, certain movement, facial expressions, and by autonomic responses. This is the suffering component, a reaction that follows upon the pain.

Another possibility is that both of these components occur at the same time, rather than in the above order. Sensory and suffering pain might be two ways of reacting to a common source of irritation or stress, with separate parts of the nervous system responsible for activating the two components. If this is true, the suffering component is not merely a reaction to the felt pain, both may be two equal parts of the same pain experience.

Many pains are described as intractable. This means that the pain is obstinate and resistant to treatment. In most cases, however, the tissue source of such pain is vague or absent. Many pains give no information or even false information about the source of the irritation or injury. Three examples of this are phantom limb pains, referred pains, and psychosomatic pains.

Phantom Limb Pain is common in those who have had a limb amputated. These patients have the perception that the amputated limb is still present. In some cases, these persons even feel pain in this non existent limb.

Referred Pains are those that are felt in one place although the source is somewhere else. When a person has a heart attack, he/she feels pain in the shoulder, for example.

Psychosomatic Pains are those completely related to the life of the patient with pain, the emotional meaning of the pain to him/her, and the subtle purposes in may serve. For example, a person who suffers from a headache at work, but it disappears when he/she goes to the pub. The pain is real, even though it is psychological it does not mean that it does not actually hurt as bad as pain with an organic cause.

Hypnotherapy can be very effective in the management of phantom limb pain and psychosomatic pain in particular. Hypnotherapy should not be undertaken for pain without a medical referral.

Shaun Brookhouse

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