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Rather than trying to reduce the pain itself, hypnosis for chronic pain is often more focused on acceptance of your chronic condition, with the aim of reducing fear and anxiety around it. Our perceptions of pain can greatly influence our pain levels and how we manage our pain. If we are fearful, this can often lead to us avoiding situations we perceive might worsen our pain (known as fear avoidance). This avoidance can in fact worsen our symptoms over time. 

Hypervigilance is common in pain patients, meaning patients become extremely aware of painful sensations, and this focus on pain makes pain worse. This can often lead to pain catastrophizing, meaning patients are worrying about their pain excessively. These negative perceptions and emotions about chronic pain can reinforce to our brain that it needs to continue producing pain messages, therefore perpetuating the pain cycle and even worsening it. By addressing these negative emotions and reducing fear, a patient’s quality of life can be vastly improved and their pain levels considerably reduced.

Some patients may benefit from hypnotherapy sessions which replace self doubt and feelings of helplessness with feelings of confidence and empowerment. In this case, the therapist may guide you through visualising situations which you usually find difficult and pain inducing. They may help you to replace the expectation of pain and the feeling that you are not able to do anything about it, with a feeling of being pain free and taking control of the situation. This type of session can help you to understand that you can do something about your chronic pain and that things can improve.

Other sessions may focus on inducing an analgesic affect - using suggestion therapy to be pain free, have reduced pain, or increased functioning. This pain relief technique (known as hypnoanalgesia) has been utilized for many pain scenarios with success, including the treatment of many types of acute and chronic pain such as: “chronic oncological pain, HIV neuropathic pain, pain during extraction of molars, pain associated to physical trauma, pain in surgical procedures, pain associated to temporomandibular joint disorder, phantom limb, fibromyalgia, pain in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, acute pain in children, lumbago and pain during childbirth”.

Some sessions may focus on forgetting past negative memories of pain, effectively trying to retrain the brain to forget that certain situations should cause pain. Imagery may be used to replace the sensation of pain with a more pleasant sensation, such as warmth. For example during hypnosis the therapist could ask you to imagine warmth in the place of pain from now on, anytime that you feel pain. They may incorporate this concept regularly into sessions, until it becomes a ‘habit’ which happens in your day-to-day life without you thinking about it. This could help your brain to break the association between certain painful movements or situations and in turn, help you to break free of the chronic pain cycle.

Since hypnotherapy can put you in a highly relaxed state, it can help to reduce stress levels and break the stress and pain cycle. Muscle tension can be eased and stiffness reduced. If hypnotherapy is engaged in regularly, this reduction in stress can markedly improve chronic pain symptoms. This type of hypnoanalgesia session can have fantastic results for pain patients. 

Hypnotherapy sessions which focus on changing pain beliefs and reducing pain sensations through hypnoanalgesia have been shown to have the most positive outcomes. When therapists work on reducing the physical sensation of pain and building a more positive, helpful perception of pain, chronic pain patients have shown significant improvements. Studies have shown that 70% of chronic pain patients find their pain and other symptoms are reduced in the short term after hypnotherapy, while up to 30% find that these reductions last permanently.

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