The use of hypnoanalgesia (the use of hypnotic suggestion to alleviate pain) can be traced back to the 15th century, although the first clinically detailed literature on hypnosis for pain is attributed to the famous Spanish physician, Santiago Ramón y Cajal.
During his time at the University of Valencia (1884-1887), he conducted several hypnotic experiments with both healthy people and those with mental disorders, as well as individuals who claimed to have mental powers (e.g., spiritual mediums). He explored several types of hypnotic phenomena, including analgesia, visual, auditory and tactile hallucinations, cataplexy and amnesia.
In addition to effectively treating patients, Cajal utilized hypnosis in his personal life. With the consent of his wife, she was hypnotized when she gave birth to their sixth and seventh children and he published a paper on the entire process.
Hypnosis or hypnotherapy is a set of techniques designed to enhance concentration, minimize distractions and heighten responsiveness to suggestions to alter thoughts, feelings, behavior or physiological states. Since Cajal’s early clinical contributions on hypnoanalgesia, scientific interest has gradually increased on the efficacy of its clinical application compared to other analgesic methodologies.
Today, hypnosis is considered one of the most recognized non-pharmacological pain management techniques. Despite its long medical history, mechanisms of hypnotic pain relief are still being debated, with two major discordant theories. The first one focuses on dissociative processes, emphasizing the importance of hypnotic susceptibility and an altered state of consciousness. The second one suggests social and cognitive processes are responsible for hypnosis-induced analgesia, highlighting the significance of contextual variables, compliance with instructions, expectancies, cognitive strategies and role enactment.
In most cases, hypnotherapy consists of four main stages.
A number of research studies have been done on hypnoanalgesia, many of which have been retrospective analyses of past studies.
Chronic pain is a complex phenomenon, potentially impacted by emotional, cognitive, behavioral and physiological responses. Opioids are highly addictive and dangerous when misused, and they also can cause hyperalgesia, a state in which individuals become more sensitive to certain painful stimuli. I
n light of the prescription opioid epidemic, the potential for addiction and a wide array of health problems, hypnosis is a valuable option in the full spectrum of pain management techniques. It should be used as a complementary therapy in context with psychotherapy, meditation, mindfulness, yoga, exercise and other techniques.
A multimodal, interdisciplinary treatment approach is needed for many individuals, especially those with chronic pain. If an individual is dependent on opioids for pain management, medically supervised detox is warranted. Clinical experience suggests individuals who are more actively involved in self-hypnosis reap greater benefits and longer-lasting gains.
Posted on April 16th, 2018 in Blog