Chronic Pain Therapy
If you are living with chronic pain, you may have already been exposed to a variety of chronic pain therapy. Chronic pain is a bit of a loose term, but typically means pain extending beyond 6 or 12 months. A more sensible definition offered buy by Bonica suggests that pain is defined as chronic when it persists for “longer than expected”. Certainly this is more sensible, but it would leave those living in pain for years as expected with the label “acute pain”.
There are many types of chronic pain therapy. The distinctions between biological, medical, psychological and behavioral blur (for instance, taking a pill has psychological consequences, and psychological interventions can stimulate the body to create and release it’s own “brand” of morphine). I will cover a few of the major types of chronic pain therapy and try to make useful distinctions between the classes of pain therapies, even though they aren’t necessarily strict.
Nonopioid Analgesics: These include NSAID (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) such as Ibuprofen, aspirin and Tylenol. It also includes prescription drugs like Etodolac / Lodine and Keterolac / Toradol. These are sometimes used therapeutically for chronic pain, particularly if the chronic pain is mild to moderate and intermittent such as with recurring headaches. These relieve pain and inflammation, and also work to reduce fever. They do take a toll, however. They can cause stomach bleeding, and some can cause liver damage particularly in people who smoke or drink.
Opioid Analgesics: Opioids are a strong class of drugs used in chronic pain therapy where intense and otherwise-unbearable pain is. This class of drugs include morphine, heroin, and codine. While usually quite effective (opioids effect chronic pain symptoms in the brain, peripheral nervous system and the GI tract), they have a litany of side effects including addiction, respiratory depression, constipation, itching, and nausea. Opioids can also effect gene expression.
It’s worth noting that endorphins are a type of endogenous (produced naturally in the body) opioid, and that this can be triggered with hypnosis without the use of drugs.
Antidepressants: The way that antidepressants act as a chronic pain therapy is a highly technical topic. There is disagreement about whether they work by vasodilatation (widening of the arteries/arterioles/capillaries etc) or by the actual anti-depressant effects. Not unsurprisingly, the drugs effect chronic pain differently depending on where in the body it is as well as what type of pain it is (neuropathic or nociceptive). Obviously, the anti-depressants carry a wide range of side effects including altering mood. Responsiveness depends on genetic factors, and individuals will have individual responses to the medication.
Topical Medications: Topical medications are most commonly used for acute pain, although they may sometimes be used as a chronic pain therapy with an injury such as a burn which has left a patch of skin hypersensitive and painful. This is an atypical chronic pain therapy, and is rarely employed.
Hypnosis as Chronic Pain Therapy
Hypnosis is a powerful therapy for chronic pain patients. There are two major ways that hypnosis can be employed. The first is via regular hypnotic sessions with a trained hypnotist. This allows for the hypnotist to custom tailor the therapy to the chronic pain issue at hand. The hypnotist should educate you on how hypnosis for chronic pain is employed. Chronic pain therapy in a hypnotic context will include the use of mental imagery as well as hypnotic and post-hypnotic suggestions.
Hypnosis has been used in the management of acute and chronic pain for hundreds of years. Hypnosis can raise the threshold for pain, lessen the pain present, and reduce the perception of pain, along with creating physiological effects (such as reducing swelling and increasing the strength of the immune system) which serve to naturally eliminate pain. Dr. Tinterow, writing about hypnosis for pain related to surgery stated that hypnosis “raises the threshold of pain and is the only means of anesthesia which carries no danger to the patient“. This fact alone makes hypnosis the smartest choice in alternative pain relief.
Cancer is an area with a dire need for pain relief where the strong results of hypnosis have been well-studied and well-documented. Cancer is often associate with chronic pain, and a significant amount of the pain is attributable to the medical procedures (especially surgery) involved in treating cancer.
Hypnosis and pain control are key factors in chronic pain therapy. However, hypnosis can go beyond simple pain control. Chronic pain is typically accompanied by heightened states of anxiety, a reduced sense of well being, a reduced sense of control, as well as feeling down, sad, or hopeless. Hypnotherapy can effectively address all of the symptoms related to chronic pain, not just the pain itself. With hypnosis as the therapy, the chronic pain will be handled, but a greater sense of well being and energy will be restored into the person’s life. Through hypnosis and subsequent training in self-hypnosis, the chronic pain patient can replace their suffering with a renewed sense of control. Control over their body and symptoms, as well as their lives and livelihood. In other words, rather than just turning off a symptom, when hypnosis is used as a chronic pain therapy, it works to give the person their life back, not just a more comfortable body.