top of page

Hypnosis for the Relief and Control of Pain


Mind over matter…a phrase we’ve all heard before. It is typically interpreted to mean that we can use our mind to overcome a situation or even physical condition. For pain sufferers, does this mean that a technique such as hypnosis could help overcome the feeling of pain? 


For pain therapists, hypnosis focuses on the relationship between the mind and body and is considered mainstream. 


For health professionals in other fields, they may be considered alternative or complementary therapies.


Clinical, or medical hypnosis is an altered state of awareness used by licensed therapists to treat psychological or physical problems.


Hypnosis treatment for pain conditions typically consists of 4 stages:

  • Induction – to focus one’s attention

  • Deepening – to deepen one’s relaxation of the body

  • Suggestions – for changes in the client’s experience of pain

  • Debriefing – to go over what transpired


Beyond taking a participant through these common stages, a therapist may employ varying approaches. They may focus on changing the sensations from pain to something else or on shifting the patient’s attention away from the pain. When underlying dynamics, motivations or unresolved feelings are influencing pain, hypnosis can help the participant unconsciously explore these things and get some resolution for the underlying issues.


Another technique being used for decreasing the sensitivity to pain is hypnoanalgesia. The goal here is to use hypnosis in place of an analgesic in hospitals during surgery to reduce nausea, pain, vomiting and the length of hospital stay. 


Benefits for Pain Management


The good news is that research has shown medical hypnosis to be helpful for acute and chronic pain. 


In 1996, a panel of the National Institutes of Health found hypnosis to be effective in easing cancer pain. More recent studies have demonstrated its effectiveness for pain related to burns, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis and reduction of anxiety associated with surgery.


In 2000, a meta-analysis, or study of 18 studies of hypnosis, showed that 75% of clinical and experimental participants with varying types of pain obtained substantial pain relief – supporting the claims of the effectiveness of hypnosis for pain management.


Pain Relief For Children: Hypnosis is very effective at alleviating the pain of children undergoing cancer treatments. What we do is help the child go somewhere else, away from the pain. By accessing the unconscious, the child creates images that forces them to focus on something other than the pain they are feeling.


There is growing evidence and established research to suggest that hypnosis:


  • Has a greater influence on the effects of pain rather than the sensation of pain

  • May be more effective or at least equivalent to other treatments for acute and chronic pain

  • Have the potential to save both money and time for patients and clinicians, if the patient responds to hypnosis

  • May be able to provide analgesia, reduce stress, relieve anxiety, improve sleep, improve mood and reduce the need         for opioids

  • Can enhance the efficacy of other well-established treatments for pain


Hypnosis has been used successfully for people with a variety of pain conditions. 


The Arthritis Foundation has an entire page on its website dedicated to hypnosis for pain relief of arthritis


Other medical conditions commonly cited as being improved with hypnosis include:

  • Headaches

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Cancer

  • Burns

  • Back pain


Hypnosis is likely to be effective for most people suffering from diverse forms of pain.


Hypnosis has also been associated with better overall outcome after medical treatment and greater physiological stability. 


Surgeons and other health providers have reported significantly higher degrees of satisfaction with their patients treated with hypnosis than with their other patients.


Practical Application

Hypno-analgesia is likely to decrease acute and chronic pain in most individuals. 


Hypnotic analgesia has been used successfully in a number of interventions in many clinics, hospitals, and burn care centers, and dental offices. 


For acute pain, it has proven effective in interventional radiology, various surgical procedures (e.g., appendectomies, tumor excisions), the treatment of burns (dressing changes and the painful removal of dead or contaminated skin tissue), child-birth labor pain, bone marrow aspiration pain, and pain related to dental work, especially so with children. 


Chronic pain conditions for which hypnosis has been used successfully include, among others, headache, backache, fibromyalgia, carcinoma-related pain, temporomandibular disorder pain, and mixed chronic pain.


Hypnosis can alleviate the sensory and/or affective components of a pain experience, which may be all that is required for acute pain. 

bottom of page