Relieving chronic pain with hypnosis

Categories: Mindfulness

Did you know that hypnosis can be used to treat many conditions including chronic pain?  Even the Mayo Clinic uses it for treating chronic pain. Some people are skeptical about hypnosis because of what they may have seen on stage.  Contrary to popular belief it is not necessary to be in some other worldly trance to be in hypnosis. The lightest state of hypnosis (alpha) is easily achieved. In fact everyone enters a hypnotic state every day, several times a day.  This can include driving and realizing you don’t remember the last 5 miles. You can also be in hypnosis when you are watching TV, playing a video game, or reading a good book. If you have ever experienced time flying by during these activities, you are in hypnosis.  This is also the state people are in when they are “in a flow state” or “in the zone”. During all of these activities your brain is relaxed and focused. It’s not that you’re oblivious to what’s going on around you. Your brain has simply tuned out the unimportant stuff during these activities.  However, you could still respond if you needed to. For example, if you are driving you could respond to someone cutting you off. If you are reading or focused on watching a TV show or playing a video game, you can still respond if someone asks you a question. Hypnosis is also the state we are in right before we go to bed and when we wake up.  The bottom line is hypnosis is a safe, normal state that we are all in several times a day. Most people just don’t realize it.

So how does hypnosis work?  To understand how hypnosis works, we need to understand brain waves.  Beta waves are most common during your normal waking state. There is also increased Beta wave activity when you are stressed or when you are in pain.  In contrast, Alpha waves are slower. Alpha state is a light hypnotic trance where your mind slows down, you are more focused, your breathing is slow, and you are relaxed.  Hypnosis works because we are much more suggestible when we are in Alpha (or deeper states of hypnosis) compared to our normal waking Beta state.  

During Beta, our conscious mind will frequently not be receptive to ideas about our pain and ways to treat it.  This happens because our pain experience is influenced by many factors. Those can include your history of pain, what you have been told about your pain, subconscious beliefs, and expectations.  Past traumatic experiences and anxiety also influence pain. These experiences, beliefs, and expectations can be strongly rooted in your conscious brain. They can be difficult to overcome consciously.  With hypnosis we are more suggestible and more receptive to new thoughts and ideas about pain. Hypnosis is a highly relaxed mental state, in which we bypass the critical mind. In other words, the mind is relaxed and ready to learn.  The mind becomes much more susceptible to suggestion.

During hypnosis, most people just go into a light trance (alpha) where they are aware of everything that is happening.  They are simply more relaxed, focused, and open to suggestion. Even if someone is aware of everything being said, they are still in hypnosis.  It is common to have an extremely effective hypnosis session while being aware of and able to recall every spoken word by the hypnotherapist.

Give our office a call at 970-221-1201 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Terry Gebhardt, if you are interested in trying hypnosis for your pain.