Hypnotherapy for Neuropathy
When the body’s nervous system breaks down or becomes diseased, neuropathy can result. Patients experience pain, tingling and numbness, severe burning sensations or electric-like shooting pain. In extreme cases, their organs break down and paralysis can occur.
Conventional medical treatment of neuropathy, such as medication management, nerve blocks or nerve ablation, is only partially successful in significantly decreasing the perception of pain. This leads to significant life disruption, impairment, or even disability. Numerous agencies recommend therapeutic or medical hypnotherapy for controlling the pain of neuropathy. Hypnotherapy can help patients cope with the unremitting pain created by neuropathy by redirecting the client’s attention away from the pain and encouraging relaxation to lessen the perception of pain. The meditative exercise decreases sensations of discomfort or pain to a tolerable, or even an imperceptible level. Studies have demonstrated that many people with moderate to severe pain are able to achieve total relief while under hypnosis, and the relief can continue after coming out of hypnosis. It often takes one to three sessions with a trained hypnotherapist to achieve this effect, and follow-up sessions are rarely needed.
How Hypnotherapy Works for Pain from Neuropathy
Hypnotherapy enables patients to alter their mental experiences of pain, resulting in significant reductions in the experience of pain and the need for pain-reducing medication. During a session, for example, a hypnotherapist might tell a neuropathy patient that he or she can lower the experience of pain in a way similar to turning down the volume of a television set using a remote control. Patients begin to experience more control over their lives and are able to deal with the constant experience of pain.
While hypnotherapy might not cure the actual cause of neuropathy, it can help the patient manage the experience of pain. Even though scientists do not yet know how hypnosis works, there are some possible explanations for its effectiveness. The patient’s brain might respond to a hypnotherapy session by recognizing that even though the pain exists, there is no need to actually respond to the feeling of pain. Secondly, hypnosis might only be redirecting the client’s attention away from the pain. A third possibility is that hypnotherapy helps the body reduce the total amount of pain reception that gets relayed to the brain. Brain scans indicate that hypnosis actually creates a physical change within the brain possibly explaining its effectiveness for neuropathy.
What Happens During Clinical Hypnotherapy?
Unlike old movies that show hypnotists making their subjects do strange activities they consciously would avoid, the hypnotherapy patient remains in control of his or her responses to the treatment suggestions. During the first session with a properly trained clinical hypnotherapist, the process of hypnosis will be explained. Then, the hypnotherapist will provide a progression of relaxation exercises to assist the patient with moving into a deeply relaxed state of awareness. The patient’s brain will move into a different wavelength pattern, and the heart rate and blood pressure will drop. Entering into a deep, trance-like state of awareness will open the mind to suggestions for pain management. The hypnotherapist will offer ideas to minimize neuropathy symptoms by helping the client alter his or her experience of pain and associated thoughts and behaviors. Then, the patient is brought back to normal waking consciousness, and the experience is discussed. Sessions usually last about an hour and most people begin to feel improvements after three or more sessions. The more highly motivated the patient, the better the response is to hypnotherapy. Preteen children tend to respond after only one or two visits because they are easily hypnotized. About one in ten patients do not respond to clinical hypnosis.
What Is Neuropathy?
Neuropathy involves pain initiated by a primary dysfunction or lesion in the nervous system. In chronic forms, symptoms develop slowly. Some people experience periods of pain followed by times of relief. Others may experience the same level of symptoms for months or even years. Some chronic neuropathies worsen over time, but few are fatal by themselves. In acute neuropathies, symptoms appear suddenly, progress rapidly, and resolve slowly as damaged nerves heal.
In peripheral neuropathy, damage is done to the portion of the nervous system that transmits information from the brain and spinal cord to all other parts of the body. These can be caused by cancer-related issues, compression or entrapment of nerves (such as carpal tunnel syndrome), complications from diabetes, drug-induced and toxic damage, gastrointestinal and nutrition-related damage, hereditary issues, and immune-mediated dysfunctions. More than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy have been identified. For some people, symptoms manifest as organ or gland dysfunction, burning pain (especially at night), paralysis, or muscle wasting. Others may suffer from temporary sensitivity to touch and muscle weakness, along with tingling, numbness, and prickling sensations.
At least 20 million people in the United States have peripheral neuropathy, and nearly 60% of all people with diabetes have the disease. Peripheral neuropathy affects motor nerves (responsible for voluntary movement), sensory nerves (responsible for sensing temperature, pain, touch, and limb positioning), and autonomic nerves (responsible for involuntary functions such as breathing, blood pressure, sexual function, and digestion).
Finding a Hypnotherapist
The hypnotic state is generally safe. However, people who struggle with their grip on reality may not benefit. Also, those who are hiding something traumatic from themselves may feel agitated after hypnosis. Therefore, it is important to select a licensed clinical hypnotherapist who is trained in both medicine and psychology. Professionals to consider are members of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) and the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis.
Neuropathy patients should obtain a comprehensive care plan that targets other aspects of the condition besides the pain. Be sure to obtain a clear diagnosis from a physician so other sources of pain can be diagnosed and treated.
American Academy of Pain Management
American Association of Professional Hypnotherapists
American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA)
American Pain Foundation
American Society of Clinical Hypnosis
International Certification Board of Clinical Hypnotherapy
National Foundation for the Treatment of Pain