Managing the pain with hypnosis
Hypnosis reduces the sensation of pain, whether acute, during surgery for example, or chronic, has for years. It found its place in the treatment of pain.
Marie-Elisabeth Faymonville and Audrey Vanhaudenhuyse
© VladimirV / Shutterstock.com
- Hypnosis is a particular state of consciousness, more or less accessible for each individual, which is neither dream nor sleep.
- The focus on an enjoyable event under hypnosis halves sensation and severe pain unpleasantness.
- The brain under hypnosis presents a particular activity, especially in areas involved in perception, attention and emotion
Marie-Elisabeth Faymonville, anesthesiologist and intensivist, leads the algology Service and Palliative Care of the University Hospital of Liege, Belgium.
Audrey Vanhaudenhuyse, neuropsychologist, is postdoctoral researcher in this service.
To know more
A. Vanhaudenhuyse, S. Laureys and M.-E. Faymonville, Neurophysiology of hypnosis, in Clinical Neurophysiology, in press.
Dossier: Hypnosis and its applications, Brain & Psycho No. 58, pp. 20-41, July-August 2013.
D. and P. Oakley Halligan, Hypnotic suggestion: Opportunities for Cognitive Neuroscience, in Nat. Rev. Neurosci., Vol. 14, pp. 565-576, 2013.
Demertzi A. et al., Hypnotic modulation of resting state fMRI default method and extrinsic network connectivity, in Prog. Brain Res., Vol. 193, pp. 309-322, 2011.
Pain is a complex phenomenon characterized by a sensation - which allows us to locate and describe - and emotion (often negative) - it awakens in us. Different cognitive mechanisms such as anticipation, attention and distraction influence the perception of pain. When we suffer, our attention automatically focuses on the part of the body, and all our thoughts ultimately come down to two questions: what is the cause of this pain and when does it stop? It is this attention that we can tame for pain.
The patient is distracted and relaxed
Pain can be acute or chronic. Acute pain is an alarm that alerts the body when a situation endangers the physical integrity. She will "push" to avoid the situation or to consult a doctor for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Surgical procedures also trigger acute pain, the anesthesia mask. But general anesthesia is not trivial because of the substances administered, plunging the subject into a pharmacologically reversible coma, not without physiological and psychological consequences.
Therefore, under certain conditions, hypnosedation - the combination of local anesthesia and hypnosis - may be made instead of general anesthesia. This implies that the patient, the surgeon and anesthetist should agree and that practitioners change their work habits because they operate a conscious patient, but relaxed. Today, many surgical teams in Europe, particularly in France, Belgium and Switzerland, offer hypnosis as an anesthetic technique.
In other situations, pain can last for more than three months and no longer represents a warning signal to the body. This pain, chronic called, is destructive for patients. The biomedical approach is often insufficient to help patients maintain a quality of life "acceptable." A biopsychosocial approach known is required.
That is why since 1992, the Liège University Hospital in Belgium, hypnosis is associated with medical tools "classic", either for surgical acute pain or chronic pain. What is the point of such an association? What does hypnosis in the treatment of pain? First recall what hypnosis and how it acts.
For some, hypnosis is a kind of sleep; for others, it is a manipulation of the mind or deceit to fill theaters. Some ideas have historical foundations, others are mere caricatures. The hypnotic state is actually a particular mechanism of consciousness, which can be considered an innate ability possessed by every individual. It is highly developed in some people - virtuosos of hypnosis, about 10 percent of individuals - to a lesser extent in 80 percent of the population, the remaining 10 percent being somewhat susceptible to hypnosis.