The Best Alternative to Pain Meds May Be Your Brain

Published: Thursday October 27, 2016


When you suffer from pain, you know first-hand the many negative effects it can have on every aspect of your life. Your family life, your career, your goals, your happiness…they’re all at stake.  And often, it can seem as if there’s nothing you can do about it. The pain doesn’t go away.

The drug makers at the center of a crisis that has already cost 165,000 Americans from every walk of life and every socio-economic class their lives. In a report just released September 18, 2016, the Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity found drug makers actually hired hundreds of lobbyists and spent millions in campaign contributions over the last ten years to help weaken legislative measures aimed at preventing addiction and accidental overdoses of prescription opioids. "The opioid lobby has been doing everything it can to preserve the status quo of aggressive prescribing," said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. And why not? The maker of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma sold almost $ 2.5 billion worth of that one drug alone last year. They may profit, but people, regular people just like you, your family, your neighbors are becoming addicted. And worse, they’re dying.

The Committee on Advancing Pain Research, Care, and Education; Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recently reported that the “burden of pain in the United States is astounding.  More than 100 million Americans have pain that persists for weeks to years. And whether you suffer from acute pain (this type of pain comes on suddenly usually from disease, inflammation, or injury to tissues) or chronic pain (this type of pain is often accompanied by a chronic disease condition such as diabetes. It continues over a long period of time and is resistant to many medical treatments), the one thing you know is you hurt and you want it to stop.  

Opioid pain relievers do relieve pain. That’s a good thing to anyone in pain. Taking them for a few days usually does not lead to problems. Unfortunately, opioids don’t work well for chronic pain. They get more and more dangerous as our bodies build resistance to them and we are forced to take increasingly higher doses.

For pain management there’s an alternative to opioids that is gaining more and more recognition - and use - within the medical community. Research proves it can safely reduce pain, stress, and fear while increasing concentration, relaxation, and even more restful sleep.

We’re talking about hypnosis. That’s the hypnosis that was first approved for medical use by the American Medical Association way back in 1958. It’s the hypnosis that the New York Times cited in November 2008 as “the epitome of mind-body medicine. It can enable the mind to tell the body how to react, and modify the messages that the body sends to the mind." Continuing, the New York Times concluded hypnosis “has been used to counter the nausea of pregnancy and chemotherapy; dental and test-taking anxiety; pain associated with surgery, root canal treatment and childbirth; fear of flying and public speaking; compulsive hair-pulling; and intractable hiccups, among many other troublesome health problems." If the New York Times isn’t enough Consumer Reports describes hypnosis as a “Safe and potent pain reliever.” 

So what’s the proof it actually works? Good question. Just recently, in a summary of data that cited over 100 medical references, published July 2016 in Anesthesiology Research and Practice, an exhaustive study of the potential benefits of hypnosis in the treatment of breast cancer, doctors and researchers found that hypnosis can be used to control both physical functions and responses. The conclusion that, “used as a complementary treatment preoperatively, hypnosis has an impact most notably on distress and postoperative pain. In addition, during surgery, hypnosis may be applied to limit immunosuppression, while, in the postoperative period, it can reduce pain, anxiety, and fatigue and improve wound healing. Moreover, hypnosis is inexpensive, an important consideration given current financial concerns in healthcare.” (Arnaud Potié, Fabienne Roelants, Audrey Pospiech, Mona Momeni, and Christine Watremez, “Hypnosis in the Perioperative Management of Breast Cancer Surgery: Clinical Benefits and Potential Implications,” Anesthesiology Research and Practice, vol. 2016, Article ID 2942416, 8 pages, 2016. doi:10.1155/2016/2942416) 

What that last paragraph means in plain English is, medical hypnosis can be used in all stages of illness and recovery to relieve pain and stress associated with pain. It can reduce the time it takes to heal. It’s far less expensive - and above all - far less dangerous than opioids. That’s probably why in 1996, a National Institutes of Health panel ruled hypnosis as an “effective intervention for alleviating pain from cancer and other chronic conditions.” You didn’t hear about that? Well, the drug makers are the ones with the hundreds of lobbyists and the big advertising budgets - not the practitioners of medical hypnosis.

Thousands of people from coast to coast - no, make that all over the world - have learned to relieve or manage their pain (both physical or mental) with hypnosis. Hypnosis can train your brain to be far more potent than dangerous drugs. All you need to do is learn how. Research from Dr. David Spiegel, professor and associate chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford University, (http://www.time.com/4426856/hypnosis-hypnotism-brain/) has shown that when people in pain are taught self-hypnosis, they use half the pain medication and had half the pain than those who were just given access to opioids. Dr. Spiegel even hypnotized himself before his own shoulder surgery and used no pain medications during his recovery. He said at the time, “There’s an incision from the top to the bottom of my shoulder, so they cut plenty of nerves…I was just handling the pain myself.”

The effectiveness and safety of using hypnosis rather than drugs or other treatments with dangerous side-effects to relieve everything from hot flashes in postmenopausal women to the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome has been proven over and over. As a complementary pain relieving technique, hypnosis has been shown to reduce pain, nausea, stress and anxiety and more. It can help you relax, focus, and calm down. So, if you suffer from any kind of pain, the question is, what are you waiting for?

Because, as Dr. David Spiegel asserts after years of studying the benefits of hypnosis, “It’s a real-deal treatment that should be given the same respect that a lot of other treatments we use that are sometimes less efficacious and more dangerous.” So use your head and stay away from dangerous opioids if you can. Hypnosis may be just what the doctor ordered.