Hypnosis for Pain ManagementWe are excited to feature a guest post from Mark P. Jensen on "Hypnosis for Chronic Pain Management", at Oxford University Press. To view the original blog post on the Oxford University Press Blog, follow this link


Hypnosis can be included in effective pain management, according to a paper published by the Oxford University Press. The results from three lines of research are creating renewed interest in the application of hypnosis for chronic pain management.

First, imaging studies demonstrate that the effects of hypnotic suggestions on brain activity are real and can target specific aspects of pain. Hypnosis can effectively reduce the intensity of pain, and alternatively it can decrease the unpleasantness (but not intensity) of pain. In the first case brain research shows that decreases in the intensity of pain through hypnotic suggestion also decreases activity in the brain areas that underlie the experience of pain intensity. In the same way, hypnotic suggestions to decrease the unpleasantness of pain have significant effects on how bad the pain makes people feel, because of decreases in activity in the areas of the brain responsible for processing the emotional aspect of pain.

Second, research studies demonstrate that hypnotic treatments can save money. Hypnotic suggestions for reduced pain and improved healing have been shown to reduce the time needed for medical procedures, speed recovery time, and result in fewer analgesics needed — all of which not only result in more comfort for the patient, but save money for the patient and the patient’s insurance company. In a time of growing medical expenses, it’s nice to have a treatment that can actually result in cost savings.

Third, a rapidly growing body of research shows that hypnosis works. When hypnosis and hypnotic suggestions are combined with other treatments, those other treatments become more effective. When people with chronic pain are taught how to use self-hypnosis for pain management and improved sleep, they experience pain relief and sleep better. This research also reveals that hypnosis has many “side effects”, which are overwhelmingly positive. People who learn self-hypnosis can not only experience significant pain relief, but report a greater sense of overall well-being and control.

For all of these reasons, more clinicians are seeking to learn how to apply hypnosis and to teach self-hypnosis to their clients with chronic pain.

Mark P. Jensen is Professor and Vice Chair for Research of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Washington Medical Center. He has published more than 250 articles and book chapters on pain assessment and management, and is currently Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Pain.