We know pain as a physical sensation that causes bodily suffering and distress. To understand exactly how this physical pain is sensed, imagine that you are standing in a crowd and the person in front of you backs up and stands on your toe.
Several chemical substances that are stored near your nerve endings are released. These make the nerve endings sensitive, so that pain messages can be transmitted from the toe to the brain. These chemicals also increase circulation to the injured area, which then causes swelling and redness. This is a natural process designed to assist healing and fight off bacteria.
The pain message then travels to the spinal cord, on to the sensory centre of the brain and to the cortex where the location of the pain is deciphered. You may then react to the situation by saying something like “Ouch you’ve stepped on my toe!”
Luckily then we get some help – chemicals that provide pain relief are released in the brain and the spinal cord. At this stage, the pain will seem less severe.
So what’s the difference between chronic and acute pain?
We can imagine that the brain contains something like an old-fashioned telephone switchboard operator (from old movies). Sensory and pain messages are sent, via nerve fibres which run up the spinal cord, and the switchboard operator controls which messages are put through to the brain.
There are different grades of messages:
- Chronic pain messages are transmitted via C-fibres. Some of the pain sensations associated with these messages are: throbbing, aching, burning, cold, soreness, itching, tingling and numbness. The sensations are generally spread out, not as specific as acute pain. This type of pain occurs sometime after an injury.
- Acute pain messages are transmitted via A-fibres. These messages travel much quicker than C-fibres. The pain felt is sharp and specific. It’s the pain felt right after an injury. A-fibre messages take precedence. So if you were to burn your hand on a saucepan, that message would be put straight through to the brain and in that moment you wouldn’t feel your neck and shoulder pain.
This is advantageous to survival and adaptive because it allows you to respond to a pain that needs immediate attention – in this case, letting go of the boiling hot saucepan.
Fastest messages are transmitted via Special A-fibres and these take precedence over everything else. These are sensations of pressure, touch and vibration, which is why rubbing or massaging an area is a temporary pain relief. It’s a competing counter-stimulation.
There is one other type of message, but this one goes from the brain to activate muscles, causing muscle spasms, which can worsen pain. Again this is advantageous to survival because it causes muscles around an injured area to brace and guard, to support and protect it. The problem is when the muscles continue to brace and guard for long periods and becomes habitual. This tends to cause muscle spasm and more pain.
If experiencing pain, your goal is to reduce or eliminate it. Even although the causes of pain are many and varied, the results produced by hypnosis for the treatment of pain are much the same.
Hypnosis can give us the ability to gain control over the switchboard that controls our pain sensations. We can learn specific skills which enable us to choose which pain messages we allow through to the brain.
Hypnosis can also play an important role before, during and after surgery. Using hypnotherapy prior to surgery can help you reduce anxiety and remove any negative feelings about aspects of the operation itself. During surgery hypnosis can serve as an aid to chemicals used and in some instances, can be used successfully as the only form of anaesthetic. It can also result in a more positive post-op recovery.
Pain is a necessary and important condition within the body’s system. You should therefore ensure that you seek medical attention in order to have the condition diagnosed and treatment options outlined by your doctor, prior to hypnotherapy.
Health problems sometimes seem to be mysterious, however the general causes are usually the result of one of three situations.
- Stress related problems.
When stress becomes a persistent negative factor in your life, it can cause a collapse of your body’s defences, which in turn causes a resistance to illness, disease, chronic conditions or mental disorders.
When a person’s life change is accompanied by leisure time, the individual has more hours to concentrate on their physical condition, so problems appear that had previously been overlooked or consciously ignored due to lifestyle and problems begin as a product of new personal anxieties.
Some stresses are avoidable, such as poor diet or insomnia, with others unavoidable, such as aging or adolescence. Regardless of the type of stress that your body is undergoing, the physical ailments that may result are many and varied such as headaches, ulcers, arthritis, diarrhoea, asthma, heart and circulatory problems, muscle tension and even cancer.
- Inherited health problems.
Certain familiar illnesses such as allergies, asthma, diabetes and even heart disease may be inherited – i.e. you may be pre-disposed to these conditions. It may manifest itself at a young age, maybe even at birth or it may become evident during a period of extreme stress due to a change in your life pattern or prolonged personal demands. It could however remain dormant throughout your entire life. You can take action to combat or alleviate the symptoms for the first two reasons
- Accident or injury.
Your health problems may be the result of an injury or accident. When suffering from the shock produced by an injury or accident, your body reacts in a variety of ways. Three of the major reactions include:
a) Lower blood pressure
b) Diminished pulse rate
c) Temperature below normal
In extreme cases, the shock can result in death. In all cases, the shock of the accident or injury produces a breakdown of the body’s defences. Specifically, shock influences the important bodily functions, in particular circulation and respiration.
Other health problems may result from treatments for say cancer or HIV / Aids, which may weaken the immune system.
Hypnosis can be utilised for the many phases of cancer treatment. Symptoms of the disease range from deep emotional distress to pain caused by medical treatments and surgery.
Hypnotherapy can be used as a relaxation tool to reduce stress associated with being unwell. In addition, visualisation and NLP (neuro linguistic programming) techniques will be utilised to remove any fears associated with the situation.
Aspects of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and solutions focused brief therapy will then allow the client to take control, reduce or eliminate pain and to concentrate on more positive aspects of their lives.
The number of session required will be determined by the particular pain or illness concerned, however this is usually between 8-12 sessions. This will be discussed during the initial consultation.