By Darren Buford
Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, August/September 2005.
Hypnosis has long been used for pain relief and pain management, and now researchers have gathered some insight into how it may actually work. German researchers teamed up with scientists at the University of Iowa and used a heating device on the skin of 12 healthy subjects, determining a pain threshold for each person. Afterward the painful heat was applied two times, once when the person was in a normal state and once when hypnotized. Both times, researchers measured brain activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging. During hypnosis, activity in the brain’s pain receptors was reduced, suggesting that hypnosis somehow blocks pain signals to the brain.
This study corroborates anecdotal reports of subjects experiencing less pain while under hypnosis, a largely subjective finding until now.