In everyday life, and without realizing it, we experience a very specific natural process of the mind; for example, when we are absorbed in watching a movie or reading a book, or when we are driving around thinking about our things without being aware of the journey we are making.

These states have a lot to do with hypnosis. This is a technique that is being used more and more in clinical psychology to treat different problems or pathologies. In this article we will learn about hypnosis for the treatment of pain .

Hypnosis as a psychological tool

The state of hypnosis that we mentioned at the beginning of the article occurs spontaneously, but it can also be induced by psychological strategies.

The American Psychological Association (APA) in 1996 defined hypnosis as a procedure during which changes in sensations, thoughts, feelings, and behavior occur.

Currently hypnosis is considered a scientific tool that is used by doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists … Through it we can work with those deeper and more automatic aspects of the mind, to produce changes that help improve the health of patients and develop their potential.

Almost any aspect involving the mind is susceptible to treatment by hypnosis.

Hypnosis for the treatment of pain

Pain is a mechanism in our organism that warns us or indicates that something is not working well . But sometimes pain becomes pathological and dysfunctional, and that happens when it becomes chronic, and loses its warning or adaptation function. Chronic pain is considered to be that which persists for more than three months (Merskey and Bogduk, 1994).

The classification of chronic pain includes various pathologies such as: low back pain, fibromyalgia, arthrosis and headaches. In these, current psychology is working to determine the psychological factors involved in their development, maintenance, chronification, treatment and/or recovery (especially the psychology of health).

In these cases, to the pain is added psychological and physical suffering, as well as tension , which in turn feeds back that same pain, producing a vicious circle.

This tool allows you to work in different ways, with the aim of reducing or eliminating chronic pain. In addition, it also allows working with acute pain in those cases where such pain is not useful for the body (it is not functional).

Hypnosis for the treatment of pain is based on the idea that pain is a biopsychosocial phenomenon where emotions, behaviours and thoughts play a key role. Thus, hypnosis can be used to promote changes in these factors and consequently reduce pain.

How is it used to relieve discomfort?

Hypnosis, just like relaxation, can be applied as an isolated technique or as an integral part of other therapies . When it is included within other techniques, the results usually improve.

Hypnosis for the treatment of pain can help decrease anxiety, and thus indirectly act on pain.

On the other hand, hypnosis can constitute a mechanism with which the patient concentrates on some stimulus and leaves the painful sensation in the unconscious part . On some occasions, even the belief that hypnosis will work, can change the patient’s beliefs and a “placebo effect” may appear that reduces the pain (Moix, 2002).


One element that should also be considered in applying hypnosis in therapy (and, specifically, in hypnosis to treat pain), essential for the development of hypnosis, is the practice of patient self-hypnosis.

The aim is for the patient to train and learn how to apply hypnosis so that he can relieve his pain where and when he wishes, beyond the consultation situation .

Scientific evidence

Various scientific studies have demonstrated the usefulness of hypnosis for the treatment of pain and other types of problems or pathologies, together with strengthening or therapeutic options. Even in many countries this tool is included in the public health system .

The Mayo Clinic in New York carried out a meta-study on hypnosis in 2005, which highlighted 19 pathologies where hypnosis was favourable and indicated. It is also supported by several studies published in prestigious medical journals such as Nature, Science or Oncology.

On the other hand, hypnosis in the medical field is used in many hospitals and clinics around the world. It is also a technique that is studied in most medical universities in the Saxon area. Also in Europe it is used, in cities like Belgium and France, and if the patient wishes, as a psychic anaesthetic or as an adjuvant to chemical anaesthesia .

In the clinical field, hypnosis for pain is currently used in Spain, in the Pain Unit of the University Hospital of Tarragona, in patients with fibromyalgia and through self-hypnosis. It is also used in the Sleep Unit of the Clínica Rubber in Madrid and in the Hospital la pau in Madrid, in Oncology (by a group of volunteers).

Myths and Misunderstandings

There are a number of myths about hypnosis that we must dispel. Here we will talk about three:

1. Aggravation of physical or mental illness

Hypnosis itself does not aggravate or worsen physical or mental illnesses, but a malpractice of therapy in a hypnotic process by the professional, could be harmful.

2. The hypnotist can do whatever he wants with the hypnotized

This is not so; all hypnosis is actually self-hypnosis, and therefore the hypnotized person (or the patient) agrees to let things happen. If the hypnotist were to give any instruction against his morals or will, the patient could simply not obey such a suggestion , as well as leave the hypnotic process when he wished.

3. Hypnosis requires no effort on the part of the patient

Although in the hypnosis session the mental work can be experienced as automatic and pleasant, the person remains in an active state that requires effort. In addition, your involvement and good will is necessary for it to be effective.

Bibliographic references:

  • Merskey, H. and Bogduk, N. (1994). Description of chronic pain syndromes and definitions of pain terms. In: Classification of Chronic Pain, 2nd ed. Seattle, WA: IASP press
  • Moix, J. (2002). Hypnosis in the treatment of pain. Journal of the Spanish Pain Society, 9,525-532
  • Jensen, M. and Patterson, D. R. (2006). Hypnotic treatment of chronic pain. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 29, 95-124.
  • Moix, J. and Casado, M.I. (2011). Psychological therapies for the treatment of chronic pain. Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos de Madrid: Clínica y Salud, 22(1), 41-50.