How Does Hypnosis Work, Can Anyone Be Hypnotized, And When Is It Used?

Dr. Portenoy answers the question: 'How Is Hypnosis Used To Relieve Pain?'

— -- Question: How Does Hypnosis Work, Can Anyone Be Hypnotized, And When Is It Used To Relieve Pain?

Answer: Among the many cognitive treatments that are used for chronic pain is hypnosis, and many patients ask whether hypnosis can be used to treat pain effectively. Is everybody hypnotizable? And if so, what effects might be anticipated?

Well we know that hypnosis is a state of deep relaxation and that people tend to vary in their ability to be hypnotized. Some people don't seem to be hypnotizable at all and some people seem to have the capacity to learn how to enter a trance quite easily.

Most physicians are not trained hypnotists and they don't offer patients hypnotism as a routine intervention. In contrast, most physicians who are pain specialists at least, would offer patients training in relaxation or distraction since everybody can do those interventions.

However, if a patient is hypnotizable, hypnosis can potentially be a very powerful way to reduce pain at least acutely. Now the only way to find that out is to go to somebody who is a trained hypnotist, determine whether or not the person is or is not hypnotizable, and then have a trial of hypnosis.

If a hypnotist with some expertise in pain management is in the community and accepts referrals from physicians, it's perfectly reasonable for a person with chronic pain to see that person and to engage in an effort to develop hypnotism as a technique that might be used to treat the chronic pain.

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