Hypnosis for Management of Pain Relief – A History and Uses

by Erika Slater

arthritis pain in hand for senior woman

Pain is one of our body’s primary defense systems. It tells us something is wrong and requires our attention.

Without pain we could get severely injured – externally or internally – and not even know there’s an issue, but with sometimes dire consequences.

Pain comes to us in different forms; chronic pain that never seems to go away, temporary after an operation or injury, or intermittent such as migraines or phantom limbs. The level can vary from nagging discomfort, to searing and incapacitating pain.

Anticipated pain can be dealt with by narcotics but there can be significant side effects. Surgeons tend to automatically prescribe pain medications after an operation. Limited use of these high-powered drugs should be the plan when they’re prescribed.

There are people who live with pain every waking minute. An option to ongoing pain medication is hypnosis. It’s been successfully used to moderate pain and reduce dependence on drugs for a number of pain related injuries and causes.

Let’s first discuss some history of hypnosis and its uses for pain relief…



Pills capsulesArthritis is a common category of chronic pain, it can be a debilitating disease, and for the elderly, who suffer with it in their hands, can severely impact their ability to perform even the simplest personal hygiene and grooming activities. As if this indignation isn’t enough for them to suffer the ongoing pain in their joints also reduces the quality of their life.

Many people suffer with knee pain either because of an injury or age – for runners this is a common ailment.

Both of these complaints also end up limiting the quality of life and even force surgery to replace joints.

Pain killer medications can help but as time progresses increased doses can be required causing potential for increased side-effects and even dependency and addiction. Read a recent article about the current Opioid Epidemic here >>>

Another common pain category among amputees is the “phantom limb” condition. This is where a limb has been amputated but pain is still felt in the area where the limb was once. Generally, this is intermittent pain as it comes and goes.

The brain thinks the limb is still there and amazingly almost self-generates pain messages to the brain for the missing limb – we still don’t understand fully why and how this happens. But its evidence the brain is still receiving and processing messages from the limb even though it’s gone. Further vindication the brain can be “tricked” into believing something even when mentally we know it to be imagined only  in our thoughts.

Hypnosis has been used for many years to help reduce pain. If you consider there are examples of hypnosis being used to perform surgical operations then it’s a small step to understanding it can be used for management of ongoing chronic pain.

Hypnosis works on the brain to stop responding to pain signals. When used as an alternative to anesthesia – that’s total removal of pain – studies show the pain signals are still generated by the nerves damaged but they’re not ‘acted upon’ by the brain, and the signals are effectively ignored.

Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York examined 18 studies and they found moderate to large pain-relieving effects from hypnosis. This added significant support for its use for pain management in patients. You can read more about these clinical trials using hypnosis at a link in the resource section below.

This same research demonstrated medical hypnosis can help with both sudden (acute) and long-term (chronic) pain from various ailments people suffer with.

The most prevalent ailments included; cancer, burns, as well as rheumatoid arthritis.

Like medication, use of hypnosis doesn’t cure the cause, but can be a replacement for drugs.

It also worth noting it can ease the anxiety some people feel before surgery. There are many individuals who suffer from phobias associated with going to the dentist, or who are allergic to anesthetics, and use hypnosis to help.

In fact, more and more dentists are using hypnosis, and/or meditation techniques to help make their patients feel relaxed during their visits and sessions.

Sigmund Freud wax figure in BerlinHypnosis was once not taken seriously by the medical profession. James Braid (1795 – 1860) was a surgeon in the UK in the 1800’s and is known as the ‘Father of Hypnosis’ because he applied it to treating pain for patients who couldn’t tolerate the use of anesthetics, or when none was available. Furthermore, he found when he used it on patients before surgeries, it helped to relax them.

Up until that point hypnosis was often known as ‘mesmerism’ and was viewed as an occult practice or a form of witchcraft. Braid was the first one to truly label it ‘hypnosis’ to shed the mysticism surrounding it.

It wasn’t until the late 1800’s and into the 1900’s that hypnosis was taken seriously in medicine.

The famous psychiatrist Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) used it to treat mostly psychological problems in his patients, but found it could also be used in pain management. Freud did all his early work in Austria, Vienna.

Interestingly, he was one of the first to see the true connection in how it could be used as a natural anesthetic for helping individuals with pain issues.

Milton Erickson (1901 – 1980) was a successful American psychiatrist who used hypnosis in his practice. Again, citing a Mount Sinai article on history of hypnosis; “In 1958, both the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association recognized hypnotherapy as a valid medical procedure. Since 1995, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has recommended hypnotherapy as a treatment for chronic pain.”

Many hypnotherapists have taken Erickson’s teachings and techniques and adapted them to helping their clients deal with pain. You can read further about this at a link you’ll find in the resource section below.



Woman in hypnosis sessionProfessional therapeutic hypnotists usually require a referral from a M.D. This ensures the hypnosis is recommended after medical evaluations have been conducted and ongoing monitoring of the patient’s condition is in place.

Hypnosis can help you achieve relief from pain by teaching you how to use your mind to lower the amount of pain you perceive. Learning the skills of hypnosis means you have relief whenever you need it and in an instant.

A Doctor may recommend the use of both medication and hypnosis for a patient.

Many people quickly grasp the techniques and gain relief from the start using hypnosis.

In the case of knee pain and hip pain many people find it can be cured with minor surgery.

But they may have to wait for a long time for the operation, and much can be done to alleviate ongoing pain using hypnosis in the interim. So, knee and hip pain relief can be achieved quickly and relatively easily using hypnosis without the need for drugs.

The best approach to using hypnosis for pain management is to find a hypnotherapist who understands how it can and should be applied to treating your pain. Generally speaking, a couple or more sessions are all that’s needed to learn the skills to manage your pain.

The hypnotist will teach you not only how to use self-hypnosis, and how to practice it, but also can implant post-hypnotic suggestions, as well as condition the unconscious mind for dealing with pain management by helping to shift your focus – distracting your mind from it – and also being able to block it all out together.

Once you’ve learned the skills, you can start to practice them on your own whenever you feel you’re in pain and need relief. There are hypnosis CD’s and MP3 downloads that can also provide the same treatment strategies for helping you control your pain.

Like drugs or surgery there’s no guarantee of relief or “cure.”

There is some time to be invested to learn the skills of self-hypnosis. They’re not difficult but do require commitment and consistency. It’s a little like learning to ride a bike but without the fear of “scraping your knee” or worse. If you’re interested in working directly with me then check out my online and In-office Special Hypnosis Services here.

For best results listen to a self-hypnosis session daily for the first few weeks to get used to the effect, and then use as needed.

More people turning away from high-risk and long-term effects of powerful drugs to alternatives like hypnosis as a natural and risk-free treatment for pain management.



The management of pain using hypnosis is becoming more common these days. Whether its to help after surgery, or to deal with chronic or temporary symptoms then it can be taught to manage pain fairly easily. There are many medical situations and procedures where Doctors are turning to and recommending its use to supplement other treatments.

Hypnosis is also being introduced in other situations, such as dentist visits, to relax and minimize stress induced by a visit and the concern a procedure may cause pain or discomfort.

Self-hypnosis can be learnt easy enough through visits to a hypnotist and/or through programs purchased on MP3’s or CD’s.

Hypnosis Downloads has a large collection of self-hypnosis MP3 products online covering pain relief. Check out all their offerings here >>>



The Opioid Epidemic and the Way Forward Out of the Crisis – Erika Slater >>>

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Ericksonian Hypnotherapy for Pain Management >>>

Understanding and Overcoming Common Knee Running Injuries >>>

Erika Slater CH
Free At Last Hypnosis

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