More than 100 million Americans have intractable pain from arthritis, cancer, fibromyalgia, an accident or another source. If conventional measures, such as medication, surgery and physical therapy, haven't allayed it sufficiently, you can learn to relieve it yourself through the power of your mind.

Hypnosis is not about losing control or failing to "wake up." Hypnosis is not sleep. It is a long established, well-respected form of therapy. Self hypnosis uses many of the same technique.

The Puzzle Of Pain

Pain is a survival mechanism. It warns us that something is wrong. Self-hypnosis teaches the central nervous system to be less sensitive to pain signals. It prevents pain messages from flowing to the brain, changes the way the brain interprets them and switches on the part that restores relaxation. Your conscious mind tells your unconscious mind to lower the volume.

Self-hypnosis is safe and convenient, has no negative side effects and can accompany and boost other forms of therapy.

My Story

After 10 years of counseling patients who had chronic pain, a major car accident left me with neck, back, leg and bone pain. I also have scoliosis (a curved spine), which triggers muscle pain, and arthritis.

Using self-hypnosis techniques, I greatly reduced my pain. In addition, self-hypnosis helped me prepare emotionally and psychologically for back surgery, promoted positive expectations of a quick recovery and helped me brace for possible disappointment.

Caveat: Before trying self-hypnosis, see a medical professional to make sure that your problem isn't being caused by something physical that can be fixed.

Evaluate Your Pain

Reconnaissance to evaluate the enemy is the first step in conquering it. To assess the enemy -your pain-write down in a notebook identifying details that will change the pain from vague to specific, making it finite, approachable, reducible.

On a scale of 0 (no pain) to 10 (the worst pain imaginable), rate your pain's intensity right now... at its its different times of day...after taking medication. ..after various activities or treatments...and later, after self-hypnosis.

How do you react to pain? What makes it worse or better?

Relaxation Helpers

Also, to prepare for self-hypnosis, think about whether you tend to be most receptive to sights (how a beach looks), smells (ocean brine), sounds (seagull calls, waves breaking) or touch (warm sand under your feet).

To find out: Think of the activity you enjoy most (hiking, gardening, sex). \What combination of senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste or a nontraditional sense, such as movement) does it primarily involve? You will use this information to relax yourself in self-hypnotism exercises.

Retreat To A Safe Place

Everybody daydreams. When you daydream, you're in a hypnotic like state. Self-hypnosis provides a way to take charge of your daydreams and find a mentally comfortable place where you are protected from pain.

After some practice, you will attain deep physical and mental relaxation-a natural antidote to stress and pain.

Benefit: You'll replenish and restore energy reserves drained by continual pain.

Bonus: Scientific evidence suggests that if you practice self-relaxation regularly, your immune system will become stronger and more effective at shielding you from pain and stress.

Helpful: Tell yourself what you want to happen, then think and imagine that it is happening.

Sit comfortably with your back, neck and head supported and your feet on the floor or a low stool. Close your eyes to block out distractions. Take three deep breaths to unwind. Then breathe normally.

Concentrate on relaxing your eyes, eyelids and surrounding muscles until they don't feel like opening. Tell yourself that deep relaxation is spreading through your body. Imagine that you are experiencing a pleasant floating sensation.

Open your eyes briefly. Close them again and repeat the entire procedure two more times.

Then deepen your relaxation by slowly counting backward to yourself from 20 to one. Tell yourself that you are becoming more and more deeply relaxed with each number. Pay attention to your breathing without trying to change it. Enjoy drifting into a pleasant daydream.

Act On The Pain

Using your senses, reshape the pain into something less disturbing. Examples...


Assess: Stiff tight and achy.

Retreat: Daydream that you're in a hot tub at a mountain spa.

Action: Imagine the bubbling waters softening the hardness, loosening the tightness, soothing the achiness.


Assess: Tightness in forehead, sharp stabbing around left eye.

Retreat: Daydream that you're sitting comfortably. On your head is a block of ice that has air holes for your eyes, nose and mouth.

Act: Feel the soothing coolness numbing the painful sensations...and the cool, smooth, insulating comfort surrounding your head.

Emerge From Your Daydream

After approximately five minutes, when you've had enough relaxation and arc ready to rouse yourself, slowly count from one to three. At three, blink your eyes tightly, then open them and tell yourself that you're coming back feeling wide awake, alert and refreshed, sound in mind and body, and in control of your feelings.

Bonus: To use this exercise to fall asleep, do not count from one to three at the end. Instead, after your daydream, let yourself drift into a natural sleep state. When you wake up from your nap or night's sleep, you will feel refreshed, alert and rested.

Practice self-hypnosis at least twice a day in a safe place, preferably not when very hungry or full. . .and never while driving a car or operating machinery. After one week, you should find it easy to slip into a light trance-like state when it is appropriate to do so.

Assess Your Progress

Refer to your initial assessment of the pain recorded in your notebook. Has the pain changed since you began self-hypnosis? Has its intensity lessened? Are its qualities softer? Are the sensations more tolerable?

If so, then self-hypnosis is working for you' If not, there are numerous other self-hypnosis methods to try.

A qualified hypnotherapist can provide a good start to learning self-hypnosis. Choose a licensed mental health professional, typically a clinical psychologist or social worker. Ask about his/ her training, experience and credentials in using clinical hypnosis for pain management. Trust your gut feelings about the person as well.

Although effective self-hypnosis takes practice, success brings the reward of pain reduction. By identifying and routinely using coping methods that work best for you whenever you need them, you can ease your pain, enhance your well-being and improve your ability to function all day, every day.

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