Chronic Pain: What a relief?


It still surprises me just how powerfully Cognitive Hypnotherapy can affect the physical symptoms the human body suffers. It is genuinely remarkable.

This of course flies us straight into the face of one of pain’s key conundrums and, as it turns out, one of the keys which allows Cognitive Hypnotherapy to address otherwise intractable symptoms which consistently defy pharmaceutical intervention.

A fundamental driver of evolutionary development is to staying alive to propagate genes and a key components of achieving this is a means of identifying and responding to threats. It is extremely effective and adaptive. We know this because we are (possibly) the dominant species on this planet.

Herein lies the route of our painful downfall.

Pain is one of these absolutely vital alarms which keep us safe. When something is damaging your body, it is imperative that you respond. Right now. Without thought or debate. It is designed to grab your attention and demand, absolutely demand, that you act. In this way, by prioritising damage as the highest of the immediacy alarms, you are forced to deal with something which could either kill you or injure you to the point when your continued survival is compromised. Pain even triggers physical responses to help us heal. Redness, swelling, rashes, increased sensitivity, stiffness, reduced range of movement can all be triggered by pain in order to assist with healing.

Quite simply, our bodies don’t want us or our children to die and will scream at you until you act.

But…

what if responding to the damage could in itself compromise your chance of survival or of propagating your genes in that imperative manner geneticists like to refer to? What if responding to being in pain lets down other defence mechanisms like fight or flight or prevents you from saving your offspring?

Well, as it turns out, the pain alarm is extremely sophisticated. Not only does your brain assess the information from your body (nerve input about pressure, temperature, chemical effects, danger to tissues) but it assesses this against all manner of other inputs it is receiving about your overall situation. It does what it does best, lightening fast projection of what could happen and how to respond in multiple scenarios, so quickly that we quite simply aren’t aware of it. We do it all the time.

The more dangerous the situation your brain believes you to be in, the more sensitively it sets its alarms. You are more likely to jump at a sudden noise or movement when you’re scared than when you’re calm and happy. You’re more likely to feel pain when you expect to sustain tissue damage.

There is an exact opposite to this, though. If your situation is so dangerous that dealing with pain would be yet more dangerous, then the pain alarm does not fire. There are many stories of people who have saved themselves or loved ones from danger even though they have been injured already. The pain didn’t arrive until later. When there was time to hurt.

These are the pre-cursors of chronic pain. 

After tissue damage, the body repairs itself to whatever level it can and the pain alarm returns to its normal sensitivity. Sometimes however, the brain has become so used to firing the pain alarm that it mistakes it’s own sensitivity as further tissue damage. Sometimes it treats its own increased sensitivity as continued indication that your environment is more dangerous than it really is. It enters a spiral of pain sensitivity that it doesn’t recognise and doesn’t try to find a way out of it because it believes you are in too much danger.

In a very real way, your brain has begun to jump at its own shadow.

Modern living causes another twist in the tail. The bulk of the threats we face are social rather than physical. But as a social being we perceive socially threatening situations as dangerous. So if we feel socially vulnerable (anxiety, stress, tiredness, depression), we automatically increase our perceived threat levels. If we are unhappy about where we live, the job we have, the threat of redundancy, worry about money, arguments with our partner, concern about our children, worry about our health, all of these are assessed as indicators that our environment is dangerous.

Given that prolonged pain can lead to anxiety, stress and depression, chronic pain can extend its spiral because eventually the perceived threat is sustained by chronic pain itself.

This is where Cognitive Hypnotherapy becomes extremely effective.

It uses a variety of powerful techniques which are designed to help you perceive increased levels of safety and control within your own environment. These are superbly effective at reducing anxiety, stress and depression; dealing with phobias; social fears such as public speaking and so on. It is these very tools which allow Cognitive Hypnotherapy to have such dramatic effect on chronic pain conditions.

Given that perception of pain is based on the level of tissue damage and the assessed level of immediate threat in your environment, then the most predominant trigger for chronic pain is the perception of threat alone. After all, one of the key definitions of chronic pain is ‘pain which is continuing for more than 12 weeks or after the time at which healing would have been thought to have occurred’. In essence, if the pain you have is ‘chronic’ then, by definition, your tissues are no longer sustaining damage.

Cognitive Hypnotherapy prompts your unconscious mind to recognise the reality of the level of safety you have, both externally and internally, physically and psychologically, then the assessed environmental threat level is reduced and the pain alarm is fired less and less. As the pain alarm is fired less and less, the brain allows the nerve receptors themselves to gently return to their normal sensitivity.

With careful work, your unconscious perception of threat is reduced and perception of safety and control is increased. This sets up a virtuous circle of feedback. Gradually and gently the frequency of pain reduces until it becomes something that used to happen.

Chronic pain can become a thing of the past.

Using Cognitive Hypnotherapy, both face to face, over Skype and through carefully designed mp3 recordings, many clients have been helped out of the spiral of their chronic pain.

Why not join them?

You’ve only got one thing to lose. Your pain.

Related:

http://tonyburkinshaw.co.uk/shop : Chronic Pain Hypnotherapy mp3

http://www.britishpainsociety.org/ : further information about chronic pain

Chronic Pain, Hypnotherapy mp3

The Outlook is Sunny
© Tony Burkinshaw 2013

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7 thoughts on “Chronic Pain: What a relief?

  1. Well said! My therapist and I have just begun to use hypnotherapy to address the myriad of chronic pain I deal with, and although I have a ways to go, I can already see it helping. You wrote a really beautiful description of how the brain and body work and what it is that goes wrong when you find yourself facing chronic pain. Thank you very much!

  2. Hi Tony,
    I found this article very interesting as I have a 12 year old nephew who is suffering from Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome. The family is at their wits end trying to find a solution and an end to his pain. He had a bout last year that lasted quite a few months, then was alright for a while. He is now suffering again, this time a different kind of pain in a different part of the body. i wonder if you have any experience with CRPS or have any suggestions. They have had many medical investigations with no real success or answers.

    • Hi Norah,
      Many thanks for your interest and for tweeting this post.
      CRPS is a difficult condition to suffer as there is no apparent cause or cure and yet it brings such pain. In many ways it is a vicious cycle of the pain being triggered because of the pain.
      As pain is essentially an alarm warning of tissue damage in dangerous situations, the very fact that there is no apparent cause or cure can make the sufferer feel ever more under threat.
      Again, this feeling of threat intensifies the sensetivity of the pain alarm and triggers it yet again.
      Hypnotherapy can be effective in allowing clients to perceive their situation differently and gradually feel increasingly safe and in control. This can can help to reset the pain alarm to more normal senstivities.
      I’be had succeses both face to face and via downloads with chronic pain and would be happy to talk with you further if you wish.
      All the best
      Tony

      • Hi Tony,
        Thanks for your response. I’ll pass the information on to the family. Ultimately it is they who will decide. I appreciate your offer.

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