How Effective is Hypnosis for Pain?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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A review of 18 separate studies on the effectiveness of hypnosis for pain reduction shows moderate to substantial pain relief for the subjects who participated in the clinical research. Hypnosis for pain might give the mind control over the body when the brain is in a relaxed state and open to suggestion. These studies also found that patients who use hypnosis for pain sometimes heal faster than patients who rely on traditional medicine to treat discomfort. With practice, hypnosis may increase a person’s pain threshold, causing him or her to become less dependent on pain medication.

Medical hypnosis is considered an alternative therapy that usually works best on patients who possess a high capability to relax and turn off their conscious minds. They must be receptive to suggestions from the hypnotherapist and be able to focus on a specific thought or idea. Using hypnosis for pain relief typically includes post-hypnotic suggestions to reinforce pain relief techniques after the session is over.


Hypnosis consists of four phases. In the first phase, the hypnotherapist and patient discuss what they hope to accomplish. The therapist commonly explains that the patient will not lose his or her free will and will be aware of what is happening. Relaxation is the second step, where the patient might visualize a situation that brings rest and comfort. Once the patient is in a trance, the therapist often gives suggestions the patient can use to relieve pain, and then ends the session.

When a person goes under hypnosis, the conscious mind can become quiet. This allows the unconscious mind to concentrate on a thought and block pain messages to the central nervous system. During hypnosis, a patient’s breathing and pulse slow down and alpha waves increase in the brain. Some people practice self-hypnosis techniques at home after they learn the basic steps of using hypnosis for pain.

One study of patients with chronic pain from burns used suggestions that the skin was cooler, which decreased inflammation and prompted faster healing. These burn patients also used hypnosis for pain during daily abrasion treatments to remove damaged skin because daily anesthesia use is not practical in these situations. Researchers discovered pain leads to stress, and stress makes pain worse. Hypnosis may interrupt this cycle and be effective for some patients.

Other practical uses of hypnosis for pain involved cancer patients who suffered from side effects of chemotherapy. These patients required fewer medications to control pain and were better able to control the nausea associated with chemical treatment for cancer. Hypnotherapists also gave these patients suggestions to increase their sense of well-being after chemotherapy treatment. Medical hypnosis has also been used to ease anxiety before surgery, which may result in the need for less anesthesia and shorter hospital stays after an operation.


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