The first account of painless surgery using hypnosis was in 1838. Dr. Elliotson capitalized on the times by giving public demonstrations of hypnosis (which was at that time still referred to as mesmerism, a name given by Franz Anton Mesmer) at the London University College Hospital. Later in 1845 James Esdaile performed over 2000 operations including amputations in which patients were hypnotised. The patients reported feeling no pain throughout their operations.

In 1955 The British Medical Association approved hypnosis after it had been used successfully throughout the 2nd world war to treat post traumatic stress and to perform operations in on soldiers who had limited medical supplies whilst fighting.

Unfortunately no one can really say how hypnosis for pain control works, however, research seems to suggest that it is based upon a disassociation model, as seen in patients with Multiple Personality Disorder.

Dissociation can eliminate pain by placing it in a sort of psychological storage area, away from the consciousness of the patient. There are many accounts in history of hypnosis being used in place of anaesthetics.

This model of dissociation is commonly referred to as the “hidden observer” model of cognition.

NLP can also be a helpful tool in alleviating pain. If a person can elicit the submodalities of their pain (the coding the mind has labelled to the experience) the submodalities can be changed, by adjusting them to see what impact they have on the pain levels. More specifically, the submodalities of an area of the body which are not experiencing pain can be elicited (or the submodalities can be elicited when the body is not in a painful state to give contrast) then the submodalities of “pain” can be adjusted to the same as the submodalities of “no pain.” For example if one of the things a person says about their pain is that it is like a red throbbing ball, try changing it to a pink wobbly blob and see if it continues to be as troublesome.

Remember that pain is your body’s way of letting you know that something is wrong, so before using these techniques to override your pain, you must get the approval of your doctor.

By Gemma Bailey