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Effects of Hypnosis on Pain Reduction

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Psychology
Wordcount: 1554 words Published: 23rd Apr 2018

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Psychology is defined “as the scientific study of behaviour and mental processes” (Coon & Mitterer, 2012, p.14). One of the widely circulated common sense beliefs is that hypnosis is a technique that is useful in reducing a person’s perception of pain. Hypnosis is “an altered state of consciousness characterized by narrowed attention and increased suggestibility” (Coon & Mitterer, 2012, p. 221). The history of hypnosis originated from the 1700s when an Austrian doctor Franz Mesmer tried to use magnets to cure illnesses and this technique is called animal magnetism (Oon, 2008). Animal magnetism is similar to hypnosis as both depend on providing suggestions (Waterfield, 2002). It was then by English surgeon James Braid which the term hypnosis comes to light where he associated hypnosis with sleep (Coon & Mitterer, 2012). Nevertheless, in today’s context, people do know that hypnosis is not about sleeping. One of the important aspects of hypnosis is basic suggestion effect (Coon & Mitterer, 2012). Basic suggestion effect happens when one do things out of others’ suggestions rather than its own will (Coon & Mitterer, 2012). Hypnosis uses basic suggestion effect to assuage the pain experienced by one. As such, it is indubitable that hypnosis can be used as an effective mean to relieve pain.

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Hypnosis can be a mean to relieve the pain experienced during medical procedure. A research study shows that hypnosis can effectively assuage the pain one has to go through during medical treatment. Butler, L.D., Symons, B. K., Henderson, S. L., Shortliffe, L. D., and Spiegel, D. (2005) carried out an experiment with children that have to undergo voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG). This experiment consisted of two groups, the control group of 23 children and the experimental group of 21 children (Butler et al., 2005). The former being children that had undergone routine care which were the outline and the demonstration of the entire process and the latter being children that undergone hypnosis in which they would have to practice hypnotising themselves numerous times a day before the next VCUG session (Butler et al., 2005). Children in the experimental group were also told to imagine themselves in their preferred places which were then associated with the VCUG treatment (Butler et al., 2005). Children from both groups must have attended at least one VCUG session before (Butler et al., 2005). The results obtained were from the level of pain felt by the children during the process, parents’ evaluation of their child’s degree of fearfulness as compared to the previous session, the research assistant’s (RA) interpretation of the children’s level of distress during the procedure and the smoothness and time taken for the procedure assessed by the radiologist and radiology technician (Butler et al., 2005). The results of the experiment showed that the pain experienced by both groups of children was similar (Butler et al., 2005). However, parents from the experiment group generally find the procedure less daunting for their child after the hypnotism session as compared to the control group (Butler et al., 2005). Similarly, the RA and the medical staffs conceded that the children in the experimental group experienced less pain and the procedure was smoother than those from the control group respectively (Butler et al., 2005). The time taken for the children in the experimental group to complete the procedure was also about 14 minutes shorter than the children in the control group (Butler et al., 2005). This experiment goes to show that hypnosis can be an effective mean to relieve the pain one perceive during medical treatment.

Pain can be alleviated by hypnosis (Keefe, Abernethy, & Campbell, 2005). Experiment has shown that hypnosis is effectual in relieving the pain experienced by one during post-care treatment. In one experiment, hypnosis was used to find out if pain suffered during burn wound treatment can be assuaged (Askay, Patterson, Jensen, & Sharar, 2007). This experiment consisted of the control group and experimental group (Askay et al., 2007). The experimental group consisted of 27 patients and underwent hypnosis by a trained psychologist whereas the control group consisted of 19 patients but did not receive hypnosis and were only briefed on the procedure (Askay et al., 2007). The control group were also given a recording to listen to aid them in the wound changing process (Askay et al., 2007). The results were obtained from questionnaire done after the treatment (Askay et al., 2007). The results from the McGill Pain Questionnaire (SF-MPQ) showed that the patients from the experimental group experienced lesser pain from previous treatment than those of the control group (Askay et al., 2007). However, other evaluations did not show a significant differences in the results (Askay et al., 2007). Askay et al. (2007) concluded that SF-MPQ focused on several elements of pain rather than only on one (Askay et al., 2007). As a matter of fact, hypnosis can be a way to relieve pain.

Pain experienced after surgery can also be alleviated by hypnosis. Research has shown that the pain experienced by one after surgery can be reduced by hypnosis. Oakley, D.A., Whitman, L.G., and Halligan, P.W. (2002) showed that hypnosis can relieve the pain experienced after amputation from the phantom limb. Phantom limb is the illusion of having intact limbs even after the amputation and some might even experience pain from the amputated limb and this pain perceived by one is known as Phantom limb pain, PLP (Ramachandran & Hirstein, 1998). A 76 year old woman, Mrs D, had an amputation from the right leg to the knee but only felt the PLP after two years and has tried different means to lessen the pain thereafter but all to no avail (Oakley et al., 2002). After she undergone imaginative hypnotism, the pain at her ankle had entirely disappeared (Oakley et al., 2002). The hypnosis sessions she undergone related the pain to her imagination in which she saw a sculpture which was shaped by hitting with hammer (Oakley et al., 2002). She was then asked to relate the hammering to her own ankle and the pain had eventually evanished as she imagined sending the weary man away which was all along, hammering her ankle, causing all the pain (Oakley et al., 2002). Mrs D then experienced pain from her toes but this time round, hypnosis was not of a big help to relieve the pain felt at her toes (Oakley et al., 2002). Despite that, the pain that has subsided did not recurred even after three months (Oakley et al., 2002). In addition, Oakley et al. (2002) have also used the imaginary hypnotism approach on 5 other individuals and they were also reported to have felt significant decrease in the level of pain or even no pain experienced after hypnosis sessions (Oakley et al, 2002). Therefore, this experiment justify that hypnosis effectively reduces post-surgical pain.

To conclude, hypnosis is capable of reducing the pain one experienced, regardless during or after surgery. As such, the field of hypnosis can be further explored to aid medical treatments to obtain surpassing medical results than before. Albeit hypnosis is proven to alleviate pain, psychology cannot be concluded as common sense as it requires to be supported by scientific research.


Askay, S. W., Patterson, D. R., Jensen, M. P., & Sharar, S. R. (2007, August). A randomized controlled trial of hypnosis for burn wound care. Rehabilitation Psychology, 52(3), 247-253.

Butler, L.D., Symons, B. K., Henderson, S. L., Shortliffe, L. D., & Spiegel, D. (2005, January). Hypnosis reduces distress and duration of an invasive medical procedure for children. Pediatrics, 115(1), e77-e85. Retrieved May 31, 2014, from EBSCOHost.

Coon, D. & Mitterer, J. O. (2012). Introduction to Psychology: Active learning through modules (12th ed.). China: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Coon, D. & Mitterer, J. O. (2012). Introduction to Psychology: Active learning through modules (12th ed.). China: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. 

Coon, D. & Mitterer, J. O. (2012). Introduction to Psychology: Active learning through modules (12th ed.). China: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Keefe, F. J., Abernethy, A. P., & Campbell, L. C. (2005). Psychological approaches tounderstanding and treating disease-related pain. Annual Review of Psychology, 56, 601-630.

Oakley, D.A., Whitman, L.G., & Halligan, P.W. (2002, June). Hypnotic imagery as a treatment for phantom limb pain: two case reports and a review. Clinical Rehabilitation, 16, 368-377.

Oon, Z. H. (2008). A critical presentation of the life and work of Franz Anton Mesmer MD and its influence on the development of hypnosis. European Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 8(1), 32-40.

Ramachandran, V. S., & Hirstein, W. (1998). The perception of phantom limbs: The D. O. Hebb lecture. Brain, 121, 1603-1630.

Waterfield, R. (2002). Hidden depths: The story of hypnosis. London: Macmillan 

Name: Lim Su WenClass: T04Student ID: S10156753


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