Pain is an experience that we can all relate to, whether it is a heartache or a headache it unites us as a common experience. However, pain is a perception. What is a mild ache for one person is an intolerable pain for another.
Physical Pain is perceived in the brain due to sensory signals being passed from the point of damage via nociceptors, which send signals via nerves the spine, which then allows the brain to locate the point of the pain. Pain transmitting and pain modulating substances are released, and the information is passed up to brain. Because multiple factors need to be considered by the brain when assessing pain, emotional factors amongst other things can affect how the pain is perceived or experienced.
Some pain cannot be traced to a specific cause and becomes a medically undiagnosed symptom, pain tells us that something is wrong, and we need to act, but if we do not know what is wrong in the body, it makes action difficult. It is important to examine what may have been happening in a person’s life when the pain began, like an emotional upset or trauma, this will help in the treatment of that pain. We cannot separate the mind and the body they are interrelated; this is gradually becoming more accepted in the medical fraternity. Emotional pain is also variable, a bereavement might be such agony for one person that they cannot conceive continuing with their life, another finds a way to live with the loss. This variable nature of pain makes it difficult to know the best form of treatment especially when it is relentless, and you cannot see and end in sight.
If pain is a perception, then altering the focus away from the pain is helpful, we can perhaps relate to the experience of having a pain somewhere and being distracted by an interesting conversation or TV programme, the awareness of that pain goes away for a while it is only when that distraction ends and you search for the pain, the awareness returns. So, in Hypnotherapy, part of what we are doing is tricking the brain into thinking it is not receiving the signals or we are diverting the focus of attention away from the perception to a more dominant thought, taking into account the law of dominant thought, a CBT tool combined with hypnosis. Thus, any kind of strong visualisation process will be helpful, especially if utilising warmth or cold metaphors, or even alternating between the two, as one would with a real poultice to manage pain. Hypnotherapy can be very helpful for chronic pain too, where the signals have become repetitive and entrenched.
This kind of distraction technique is also helpful with emotional pain as the mind can get stuck routing towards the source of distress thinking it over and over thus releasing the stress hormones. A temporary relief through distraction techniques, will begin to retrain the mind away from the source of the pain. In cases of bereavement leaving that grief behind can be loaded with guilt, we may find someone unexpectedly laughing and feel this is wrong when they are grieving, but the mind needs some respite from the pain. Though sometimes it is a case of acceptance and giving permission for the pain to be present. Pain is not just letting you know something is wrong in a physical sense, but it is also there for a reason when it is emotional and we can use therapeutic process to understand why it is there and how to work with it.
We have a wide range of techniques at our disposal in hypnotherapy, utilising complex language patterns, distraction techniques and various laws of the mind to help gain some relief. It is important to build into this, some work with autosuggestion and self-hypnosis to assist managing your own pain. Taking control of the pain so you do not feel so dependent on medication and the medical profession is so empowering.