The healing power of hypnosis

An extract from New Scientist magazine…

“HONESTLY, I wondered whether I was actually in labour, because surely it was meant to be more painful than this.” That’s Shona, describing the recent birth of her daughter. Her secret? Hypnosis. During pregnancy, she learned how to hypnotise herself into a state of mind that allowed her to minimise the pain of labour and, in her own words, “quite enjoy the whole thing”.

The word hypnosis may call to mind a swinging watch or an entertainer getting people to believe they are naked on stage for an audience’s amusement. Its history is one of sorcery and magic, tales of the occult and exploitative charlatans. Practitioners are rarely doctors or counsellors, clinical trials struggle to get funded and there is still no regulatory authority that monitors the practice.

Yet despite these issues, people are turning to the technique to help with everything from labour to hot flushes, anxiety and chronic pain, and a growing body of research is starting to confirm its benefits. We are also beginning to get a handle on how it actually works and what happens in the brain during hypnosis.

The result is that how we define hypnosis is changing, and its use in mainstream medicine is increasing. The UK’s Royal College of Midwives now accredits hypnobirthing courses and funds training in the technique. Some anaesthetists now include hypnosis in their toolkit, and it is even being touted as a solution for the opioid addiction crisis. Hypnosis is certainly no cure-all, but learning what works, why it works and how to do it ourselves …

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My journey with pain – a Hypnotic Discovery

Working with pain using hypnotherapy can be rather a challenge as I found when I was left with Post Herpetic Neuralgia after a bad bout of Shingles several years ago. This is the story of my journey with pain – a hypnotic discovery.

The medical profession also finds neuropathic pain difficult to treat as the range of painkillers that work is limited. And I know many sufferers of this type of pain will agree that there is not much on offer to help unless you are prepared to put up with some pretty unpleasant side effects or even addictions to certain drugs.

Burning Pain

In my case, having got over the Shingles itself, I developed a severe burning/itching sensation that could be anywhere along the affected nerve. Also, I had something called allodynia, where even slight draughts of air can cause excruciating pain in the same area. My GP explained that they could try various treatments for the pain, but couldn’t guarantee that there would be any effective treatment.
The first prescription was for  Amitriptyline, which could take up to two weeks before becoming effective. Unfortunately, this had little effect other than making me feel  groggy in the mornings. The next attempt was Gabapentin – also taking up to two weeks before becoming effective and also with unpleasant side effects, especially as the dose was increasing to try to get some relief. 
We also tried some topical remedies, such as Capsaicin Cream and Lidocain patches which had no effect at all.

Is it me?

At this point I was beginning to think ‘Is it me?’ However, I looked on the internet and joined some forums on chronic pain where I leaned that I was definitely not alone. And I realised I had joined a world of chronic neuropathic pain sufferers who really were enduring negative life changes and receiving little respite due to lack of effective treatment.
There isn’t room here to go into the different types of pain in detailmor all the various medical treatments I tried, but it seems that there still is much to be learned about neuropathic pain and although some do find relief using the current range of treatments, there are many who don’t. 

Drug problems and Pregabalin

I continued to be offered more treatments and attended a pain clinic at our local hospital. In the end, the only effective pain relief came from taking a fairly high dosage of Pregabalin – an addictive and mind-altering drug which was prescribed without any warnings as to the effects. Because it relieved my pain, I kept taking it and the thinking was that the side effects would (should?) subside. In the end my day to day functioning was such that I was unable to do my job effectively.
By this time, I realised I was in a bad place. I had been suffering pain for three years and had been on the Pregabalin for around 18 months. 
During this time, I had been trying Self-hypnosis and completed an additional  course in Pain Management using hypnosis for practitioners. I had some success with this, and decided to reduce the Pregabalin. From reading other people’s stories, I realised that many GPs hadn’t been properly informed about this drug and its addictive effects and people were having awful problems coming off it. 

Weaning myself off

I decided that I would come off it completely and worked out a program of reducing doses over time and, coupled with self-hypnosis I succeeded!
I took my last tiny dose of Pregabalin in November 2016, but it took another 8 months before my brain recovered full function; up until then I had been living in a fog and suffering memory loss and other problems.
I still have PHN, but using a combination of Self-hypnosis and Mindfulness Meditation, have got my life back again. 
The pain sensation hasn’t entirely gone, but I don’t take any medication for PHN at all and can cope with the occasional discomfort very easily. I now have a ‘toolbox’ of self therapy to use if necessary.

Turning a setback into a success

In fact, this has been a golden opportunity for me as I have been working to create these ‘tools’ and using myself as a ‘guinea pig’ to test their effectiveness. I have found that many of the hypno-treatments for pain just don’t work. Yes, it’s quite easy for a hypnotherapist to anaesthetise an area of the body, but this wears off once the session has finished and the difficulty has always been to get a longer lasting solution. In addition there are always other factors involved with pain and these can be addressed with hypnotherapy.

False signal

I have done a lot of reading into the problems associated with neuropathic pain and it seems that in many cases the nerves are sending ‘false’ messages to the brain. This can be illustrated by the phenomenon of phantom limb pain where the sufferer experiences sensations and pain in a non-existent limb. This illustrates that pain is not actually at the sight of where it is felt at all, but is experienced in the brain. In the case of PHN, phantom limb pain and many other ‘nerve’ pains, this is a false signal because there is no actual injury where the pain is being experienced.
In my case, I was experiencing the pain anywhere along the T6 dermatome; which is the nerve that runs from the spine, around the bottom of the shoulder blade, under the arm and up through the nipple.  This pain could be intense burning or like an electric shock. Sometimes it felt like an open wound. 


Some of the problems with pain are made worse by emotions and anxiety and I must admit to feeling many emotions over time from anger to despair. I knew that feeling sorry for myself wasn’t helping, but I felt at times that other people weren’t understanding my suffering. After all, there is nothing to see – no evidence of injury. And also because no treatment seemed effective, I wondered whether those close to me and my medical practitioners were thinking I was being awkward or ‘making a fuss’. So, quite a lot of the time I might pretend that all was OK, even though I was ‘suffering’. I am sure many of those with chronic pain understand this very well!

A different approach

I am really pleased to say that I am ready to offer a supported treatment that could put you back on the path to living a full and happy life once again.

Chronic pain relief hypnotherapy