• Marie Otsuka

Hypnotherapy for pain management: How it works


Hypnotherapy has a wide range of use cases: it can help you quit addictive behaviours, such as smoking, it can help you uncover deep-rooted traumas that you were previously suppressing, and it can even aid in pain management.

In this blog post, we share more about hypnotherapy for pain management, and how this works. Read on to find out more!

How does hypnotherapy help reduce pain?

Some find it hard to believe that hypnotherapy can help with pain management, but psychiatrists and anesthesiologists say that this makes sense.

According to David Spiegel, associate chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford, pain perception originates in the brain and differs from person to person. Because the pain we feel is largely controlled by our brains, it naturally follows that hypnotherapy can alter how much pain a person feels.

Is hypnotherapy proven to work?

While hypnotherapy is often dismissed as “new age mumbo-jumbo”, this form of therapy is actually scientifically proven to work. One of the earliest studies about hypnotherapy was conducted in 1996, when a panel of America’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) found hypnosis to be effective in easing cancer pain.

More recently, in 2000, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 18 studies of hypnosis, and found that 75% of clinical and experimental participants with varying types of pain obtained “substantial pain relief” using hypnosis.

How does hypnotherapy for pain management work?

Hypnotherapy for pain management involves the following steps:

- You discuss your condition with the hypnotherapist, and share what you’d like to achieve

- You undergo one or several practice sessions with the hypnotherapist, where they help you enter a state of altered consciousness, and use the power of suggestibility to help you relax and manage your pain more effectively

If you’re using hypnotherapy to cope with a chronic condition such as fibromyalgia, you rely on the techniques you’ve learnt to manage your pain when your condition flares up.

Alternatively, if you’re using hypnotherapy to manage pain during surgery, the hypnotherapist is present during the surgery to “sedate” you using hypnotherapy.

Using hypnotherapy for surgeries and other procedures

Using hypnotherapy for surgeries is not new in Europe, and it’s fairly common to utilise hypnotherapy for minimally invasive procedures (hernia repair, lumpectomies, biopsies) in many hospitals in Europe. However, this trend has yet to catch on in America and Asia.

In the US, the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, is one of the pioneers in this realm. The cancer research hospital started using hypnotherapy back in 2017 for partial mastectomies and sentinel node biopsies, where doctors remove lymph nodes from patients’ underarms or tumours from their breasts.

MD Anderson Cancer Center is currently working on a randomised control study which compares patients who receive general anesthesia or hypnosis with local anesthesia. While the study is still ongoing, staff anesthesiologist Elizabeth Rebello shares that the feedback and results from the 60 hypnotised patients the hospital has treated so far have been positive, with patients saying that they would definitely use hypnotherapy again.

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