by Ron Eslinger, RN, CRNA, APN, MA, BCH, CI
The reader will have a simple understanding of what hypnosis is.
The reader will understand the basics of hypnosis in pain management.
Hypnosis, Analgesia, Anesthesia, Mind/Body, Pain
Hypnosis is a fascinating domain of clinical research and practice that involves the study of how ordinary people like you and me can accomplish extraordinary things by using our minds. The way we use our minds in hypnosis involves learning to focus our minds on mental images, thoughts, and ideas that can influence our body’s responses in some very specific and special ways.
There’s a great deal of flexibility in what the mind experiences, including perceptions about the body that we in the helping professions have learned through the study of hypnosis. We have learned that people can become so deeply absorbed in their daily life experiences that they can permit their body to be more comfortable, even when there are reasons that perhaps they shouldn’t be. Even when there is an injury or disease that causes discomfort, the ability to use the mind to make the body comfortable is the foundation for what is called hypnotic analgesia or hypnotic anesthesia. It represents the most sophisticated use of hypnosis and it is what hypnosis for pain management is all about.
Hypnotic analgesia is typically one of the hypnotic phenomena that people react to with the most uncertainty and disbelief. When considering a person is in pain from a physical cause like a disease or injury, people wonder and are skeptical on how can mind-body medicine make a difference? Many people even go a step further with a misconception that if you’re in pain, and it is reduced by hypnosis then it must have been in your head in the first place. The meaning being that there wasn’t actually any pain to begin with.
Nothing is further from the truth. In fact, hypnosis has been used as the sole anesthetic in major surgical procedures. The incision and physical effects are obviously quite real; therefore, the pain is not just in the head, but at the surgical site also. However, there is not pain until it gets to the brain. That is why surgery with hypnosis is a very powerful and dramatic application of the same principles and skills that one can experience through hetero-hypnosis (hypnosis directed by some one else) or self-hypnosis (self directed hypnosis).
As dramatic and remarkable as surgery is with hypnosis as the anesthetic, you should be aware that it involves only the every day routine uses of hypnosis. Nothing special just every day run of the mill hypnosis. You can probably remember a time when at the end of the day you discovered a bruise or cut that you were totally unaware of at the time it occurred. In such an experience your mind is distracted from noticing the injury.
The ability to experience hypnosis is a natural thing that exists within each of us, which means that we have the ability to reduce the use of medications or even eliminate them all together. Unlike medications, hypnosis has no side effects nor is it addictive. Discomfort is reduced to different degrees in different people and the result is obtained safely and naturally.
Hypnosis permits a higher level of functioning, enhances the healing process while remaining active. Progress is greatly influenced by the expectations of wellness and a positive outcome. It advances the experience of comfort and lessens anxiety and fear, which are very important factors in facilitating recovery or at least in minimizing decline.
The essence of hypnosis for pain management is to facilitate analgesia. With hypnosis you can give yourself control over your discomfort rather than letting the thought of pain control you. Control your thoughts and you control your pain.
The essence of this article came from notes taken by the author while attending workshops of Dr. Yapko and Dr. Barber.
Barber, Joseph, Hypnosis and Suggestion in the Treatment of Pain, W. W. Norton & Company, 1996
Hilgard, Ernest R. and Josephine R. Hilgard, Hypnosis in the Relief of Pain, Brunner/Mazel, Inc. 1994
Heap, Michael and Kottiyattil K. Aravinhd, Hartland’s Medical and Dental Hypnosis, Churchill Livingstone, 2002.
Yapko, Michael D. Trancework, An Introduction to the Practice of Clinical Hypnosis. New York, Brunner-Routledge, 2003.
About the Author:
Michael R. “Ron” Eslinger, Captain, U.S. Navy, Retired is a Board Certified Hypnotist, Advanced Practice Nurse, Certified Hypnosis Instructor and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. He has served as Chief Nurse Anesthetist, Assistant Department Head for Administration Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Portsmouth, VA. and is the Past President, Virginia Association of Nurse Anesthetists. He is Owner/Director of Healthy Visions Wellness Center in Oak Ridge, TN, USA.