At some point everyone experiences pain, and most of us want it to stop ASAP, which is why pain medications are so widely used. Medications are effective in one sense: they dampen the physical sensation of pain by interrupting neurological signals from the body to the brain. But often they fail to mitigate the fear or anxiety that comes along with pain.
Hypnosis, on the other hand, has been shown to effectively relieve pain and anxiety—especially the anxiety that often accompanies a chronic illness, when we may fear that every new ache, no matter how unconnected, could represent a worsening of the disease.
Two hypnosis techniques can improve the experience of pain. In sensory transformation, the patient accepts the pain and transforms it by focusing on other stimuli in the environment. In sensory accommodation, you imagine the source of the pain as something more pleasant than what it actually is. Imagining that a hot sensation arose from a pleasant day of sunbathing can reduce the fear and anxiety associated with that particular type of pain, for example.
Why does this work? Stanford researchers have determined that hypnosis physically changes activity and connections in parts of the brain that control pain. With continued practice, these changes become more permanent and reduce overall pain levels.
Narcotics and suffering are not the only two ways to deal with pain. Hypnosis offers a safe and effective alternative.