Well written article on the National Hypnosis Association website by Louis Prinz on managing pain with hypnotherapy:
Pain Treatment With Hypnosis
Thousands of pain clients are utilizing today’s hypnotic technology for relief of chronic pain. This is not a new idea; mind-body medicine has been endorsed by the AMA for pain relief since 1958. In this article, I will present how we can apply new hypnotic techniques to the standard pain assessment tools used by every diagnostician to reverse the way clients relate to their pain.
The Joint Commission, an advisory board standardizing hospital protocol, mandates participating hospitals use a pain assessment scale. This is a valuable intake tool determining the pain status of clients as they initially present to the interviewing clinician. As a hypnotherapist with over two decades of professional experience in pain relief, I have found that this diagnostic tool can be easily adjusted and subconsciously recalibrate to relieve the client’s pain by focusing on client comfort level rather than level of pain.
The first step is to assess the intensity of the pain as the client experiences it, before we can begin to decrease it. We health professionals must acknowledge the pain our client perceives before we have any chance to reduce their pain levels. I sometimes even ask the client under hypnosis to imagine their pain levels are higher by one or two numbers, a task that is easy for any new client. This will teach the pain client that they have control over their symptoms and provide greater personal responsibility for the client’s level of pain awareness. If the client can imagine the pain worse than it actually is, they can also imagine the pain less than it actually is, as pain is subjective.
Hypnosis can provide a respite from chronic pain that no pill can provide. We can give the client suggestions in open-or closed-eyed trance to increase the comfort threshold before they discern the comfort level number on their scale, rather than focusing on the level of pain. For example, some clients learn to turn down the pain just like they would a rheostat or dimmer switch on the wall. Additionally, suggestion hypnosis can help potentate pain medications which, in turn, helps the client reduce both pain and meds so they keep mentally clear while returning to a more normal and engage lifestyle.
In my professional work with hypnotic pain relief, I desire that the client have less reference to the notion of pain. If the client is consistently asked to focus on the level of pain they are experiencing, it continues to reinforce the suggestion of pain. The client creates that which they put their attention to; that is, the notion of pain. I have discovered that chronic pain can be better managed when client is directed to focus on their degree of comfort instead. So I suggest that the client calibrate their level of comfort; zero meaning no comfort and 10 the most comfortable you have ever felt. (NB: The subconscious will hear the word comfort associated with the Number 0 as the subconscious cannot process negatives well.) By doing so, the client is creating the thought of comfort as well as bringing back cellular memory of when they did feel better. These images and thoughts create feelings of comfort. Focusing on the feeling whatever comfort there might be in the body automatically distracts the client from even the thought of being in pain.
For example, I recently worked with an 87-year-old pain client residing in an advanced care residential community. He informed me upon intake that his pain was unbearable, and his hands were noticeable swollen and inflamed. He focused on his pain level and weakly stated it was a 10, the worst pain he had ever experienced. After 90 minutes of standard hypnotic induction and pain relief suggestion management, upon the client emerging from hypnosis I implemented the Comfort Assessment Scale. The client stated his comfort level was a 5 and by the time I left his room, it had shifted to a six (a 16 point variance from the first pain assessment!) He called me back two days later for another visit and more practice in managing his pain and healing the pathology. While the subjectivity of this methodology makes it impossible for us to compare pain levels and comfort levels in the preferred scientific method of most researchers, it was clear to both me and the client that his pain was considerably reduced.
The most obvious benefit of hypnotic pain control is the complete absence of negative side effects. I have no recollection of any client returning from the trance state of hypnosis who did not feel better afterwards. In addition, as the client learns to use these thinking protocols on their own, they provide an inexpensive and non-addictive solution to the challenge of pain relief. With the addition of the new protocols I have developed, the process can be learned quickly and be even more effective than the traditional pain interventions.