Hypnosis For Reducing Lower Back Pain
The word “hypnosis” conjures a very specific image to most people — usually a man dangling a watch on a chain in front of your eyes and making you count backwards until you fall into some sort of deep trance. But clinical or medical, hypnosis is more than fun and games. It is an altered state of awareness used by therapists to treat psychological or physical problems. Hypnosis for reducing lower back pain is one such option.
Why Use Hypnosis?
Considering the fact that the cost of pain in the United States is growing, with the total annual incremental cost of health care due to pain ranging from $560–$635 billion in medical care and costs associated to disability days and lost wages. Therefore, therapies that address the mind-body link are often recommended for those dealing with long-term pain. Helping to reduce stress and change the thought patterns related to pain can make a huge difference to pain perception. For many, complementary approaches such as the use of hypnosis is part of this plan.
How Does Hypnosis Work?
Hypnosis is a set of techniques designed to enhance concentration, minimize one’s usual distractions, and heighten responsiveness to suggestions to alter one’s thoughts, feelings, behavior, or physiological state. Hypnosis is not a type of psychotherapy. It also is not a treatment in and of itself; rather, it is a procedure than can be used to facilitate other types of therapies and treatments. The key to becoming hypnotized is the extent to which a person is hypnotizable, which is a very reliable and stable individual difference trait that indexes one’s openness to hypnotic suggestions.
Judging by what some of the things subjects often do during a hypnotist’s show, people often conclude that hypnosis gives the hypnotist total control over his subjects like a puppeteer pulling strings on a marionette. As a result, many people don’t think of hypnosis as a viable medical treatment and end up relegating it. But hypnosis isn’t about convincing you that your pain doesn’t exist, it aims to help you manage the fear and anxiety you feel related to that pain. It also helps to reduce stress and relax the nervous system to help it become less reactive to pain.
Hypnosis And Pain Management
So how does hypnosis treat pain? Normally, when a part of the body experiences pain, it sends a signal through the nervous system to the spinal cord, where it is processed and sent to the brain stem. The signal then propagates through the mid-brain region to the cortical region (where the sensory cortex is located), which creates the conscious sensation of pain.
During hypnosis, the conscious part of your brain is temporarily tuned out as a you focus on relaxation and let go of distracting thoughts. The American Society of Clinical Hypnotists likens hypnosis to using a magnifying glass to focus the rays of the sun and make them more powerful. When our minds are concentrated and focused, we are able to use them more powerfully. If your mind is off to the beach, and you’re imagining the warmth of the sun, the cool of the breeze, the sand at your feet, you’ll be less focused on your pain – and ready for the indirect suggestion of how to react to pain in the future. It might sound something like this: “You will continue to feel this same sensation of pain, but you’ll be much less distressed about it, much calmer, much more at ease, not worried about it.”
Can Hypnosis Prevent Pain?
But can something as simple as falling into a trance really prevent us from feeling pain? At first glance, it seems unlikely – something as painful as surgery or childbirth should be able to break through a mere mental state. Hypnosis has, however, been reported as an effective treatment for pain mitigation in both of these situations and is quickly gaining reputability among physicians as a cheap and effective way to reduce 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. An analysis of 18 studies by researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York revealed moderate to large pain-relieving effects from hypnosis, supporting the effectiveness of hypnotic techniques for pain management.
What Does The Research Say ?
The research into hypnosis for chronic back pain has generally been favorable as well. A study conducted by a group in 2009 involved 37 adults with spinal-cord injury and chronic pain who were randomized into 10 sessions of either self-hypnosis or EMG biofeedback relaxation training for pain management. Participants in both conditions reported substantial decreases in pain intensity from before to after treatment sessions. Participants in the hypnosis group, however, in contrast to the EMG biofeedback group reported statistically significant decreases in daily average pain pre- to post-treatment, which were maintained at a 3-month follow-up.
Hypnosis is a tool you also can give to children to help them take control. When they feel pain, they can do something about it immediately without having to wait until you get there with the pills or for the pills to take effect. Having hypnosis as a tool also helps eliminate stress that comes from not having control. For children however, creating an active mental escape may be necessary. Rather than relaxing at the beach with a book, a child may want to imagine playing on the playground or kicking a soccer ball down the field.
Some people respond to hypnosis better than others, but there’s no harm in trying it. It has no side effects and if it doesn’t work for you, you should stop using it.
If you consider hypnotherapy for back pain relief, you will find that hypnosis not only reduces the intensity of back pain, but in certain circumstances is able to completely heal it. However, it is important to have any persistent pain investigated by a medical practitioner and follow any medical advice you are given. Eliminating the pain without discovering its cause can result in more pain in the future. It is therefore important to get a diagnosis of the cause of the back pain. Once you are able to discover the cause, you can then safely deal with the pain.
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