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Pain Control and Management 

The Efficacy of Hypnosis for Pain Management and Control : 
In 2001, the Professional Affairs Board of the British Psychological Society (BPS) commissioned a working party of expert psychologists to publish a report entitled The Nature of Hypnosis. Its remit was 'to provide a considered statement about hypnosis and important issues concerning its application and practice in a range of contexts, notably for clinical purposes.  
It opens with the following introductory remark: 
"Hypnosis is a valid subject for scientific study and research and a proven therapeutic medium." 
With regard to the therapeutic uses of hypnosis, the report said: 
"Enough studies have now accumulated to suggest that the inclusion of hypnotic procedures may be beneficial in the management and treatment of a wide range of conditions and problems encountered in the practice of medicine, psychiatry and psychotherapy." 
The working party then provided an overview of some of the most important contemporary research on the efficacy of clinical hypnotherapy, which is summarised as follows: 
Report Summary: 
"There is convincing evidence that hypnotic procedures are effective in the management and relief of both acute and chronic pain and in assisting in the alleviation of pain, discomfort and distress due to medical and dental procedures." 
"Hypnosis and the practice of self-hypnosis may significantly reduce general anxiety, tension and stress in a manner similar to other relaxation and self-regulation procedures." 
"Likewise, hypnotic treatment may assist in insomnia in the same way as other relaxation methods." 
"There is encouraging evidence demonstrating the beneficial effects of hypnotherapeutic procedures in alleviating the symptoms of a range of complaints that fall under the heading 'psychosomatic illness." These include tension headaches and migraine; asthma; gastro-intestinal complaints such as irritable bowel syndrome and possibly other skin complaints such as eczema, psoriasis and urticaria [hives]. 
"There is evidence from several studies that its [hypnosis'] inclusion in a weight reduction program may significantly enhance outcome." 
The Components of Pain: 
Hypnosis is particularly affective when working with pain management and control because it works with the components of pain. Pain relief by hypnosis is achieved by a number of routes. For example relaxation may be helpful if the person has a habit of tensing up because of the pain which causes additional aggravation. Some neurophysiological work has shown that when subjects are asked to imagine pain increasing or decreasing in unpleasantness the activity in the area of the brain that registers the affective component of the pain ( the anterior cingulated cortex ) is changed accordingly whereas activity in the area which registers the sensory component is unchanged ( Rainville et al 1977 ). Further studies ( Crawford 1994 ) indicate that some highly trained susceptible subjects who can virtually obliterate all perception of pain appear to be able to diminish the sensory component by a well developed ability to absorb themselves in other cognitive activities eg imagining themselves in a beautiful and calming favourite place. Developing an ability to manage pain also helps the person have a much more constructive and less catastrophic attitude to pain. 
So you think I’m just imagining all this ……. 
It is important to understand that pain is a signal and as such working on removing it completely would be irrational. It used to be thought that the experience of pain was a matter of how strong the signals form the pain receptors were firing. But clearly there is a psychology of pain that determines how it is experienced and how it affects the person. Just as we construct our visual and auditory perceptions from the energy that impinges from our senses and construct our memories from energised neural networks so we construct our pain. But just as our perceptions and memories are real experiences so pain is real also. This is an important message for chronic pain sufferers since the idea of a psychological approach to their pain may provoke the ‘ So you think I’m just imagining all this’ response. Far from it, however it is your ‘imagination’ which will help you alleviate your pain. 
Willen Hospice 
My own specialist interest is in pain control and management. I work at Willen Hospice once a fortnight with cancer patients for a variety of issues including pain. 

Physical Pain v Emotional Pain / Personal Experience : 

I attended a workshop where we were working specifically with pain. At the time I was not in any physical pain however I was going through a difficult emotionally painful time supporting a close friend through a rotten business situation. When we ‘buddied up’ with partners to try out some of the hypnotic techniques I relaxed well however as she was focussing on encouraging me to find any pain in my body and work with it I become completely emotionally over whelmed. The pain that my mind found in my body was emotional pain. I allowed the emotion to overwhelm me and run its course. Once I re-oriented back into the room I felt so much better. Like a weight had been lifted. 
This experience was a powerful one – it showed me that pain has many components, emotional pain being as painful as physical pain. 
Should you wish to discuss any pain management issues with me please feel free to give me a call. Fiona : 07968 106113 / 01908 989 652 
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