It is being more widely recognised than ever before that stress plays a large and significant role in physical illness. Many conditions are directly or indirectly linked to stress, and therefore the reduction and management of stress is more important now than ever.
Chronic pain refers to pain that has lasted for a number of months or years. It can be ongoing and continuous, or episodic. It can be mild or excruciating. Chronic pain is different form acute pain, which usually signals an injury or immediate physical problem. Acute pain will subside when the injury or problem has been dealt with and treated. Chronic pain may persist as a result of an initial injury, or it may be connected with an ongoing illness or condition. Sometimes there is no clear cause of the pain. Chronic pain can be utterly debilitating, limiting and restrictive, affecting all areas of life.
When we feel pain, our body responds in the same way as it does to stress: our muscles tense, our heart rate increases, our blood pressure rises, and so on. We may especially tense the area that hurts in an effort to brace the ‘injury’ and prevent further damage being done. While this reaction may be useful for a broken leg, it is less helpful when dealing with chronic pain.
Additionally, there is often an emotional element to our pain, especially if we have been suffering for a long time. This negative emotional state further causes us to feel stressed and depressed, keeping the stress response switched on.
The key is relaxation. When we relax, our heart rate and blood pressure come down, our muscles relax and we stop producing stress hormones. Our sense of well-being and happiness is elevated, and we effectively feel pain less.
Hypnotherapy is very helpful at managing pain. In fact, hypnosis can be used as an anaesthetic when undergoing dental work and even surgery. Hypnotherapy has been shown to have a positive effect on post-operative recovery times and pain management. And it can help manage chronic pain by teaching you how to relax and to switch off the stress response. In the relaxation response, we can produce the neurotransmitter serotonin, which has a very beneficial effect on pain relief.