Pain is a signal – a neurological event that must be noticed and interpreted cognitively, and possibly acted upon, before it turns into suffering. It may be a meaningful signal, or it may have little or no value at all. It would clearly be inappropriate to ignore or eliminate a meaningful pain signal that requires action, e.g. when you inadvertently touch something extremely hot, and the pain signal tells you to move your hand away, it would be foolish to ignore that signal. However, in broad terms, pain that cannot be ‘corrected’ can be considered meaningless, and it may be alleviated by hypnotherapy.
The use of hypnotherapy in the control of pain, whether acute or chronic, short-term or on-going, involves either learning not to notice the signal or to notice it less, or learning to interpret it in a more benign way as something that is unimportant. Learning not to notice pain, or to notice it less, can be achieved by learning to notice something else instead, i.e. being distracted by becoming fully absorbed in something else, perhaps something pleasant or comforting, and paying less attention to the pain. The calm state of mind induced by hypnosis facilitates this process, as well as the reduction of suffering by the reinterpretation or redefinition of the negative sensations and emotions, such as anger or fear, aroused by or connected with pain.
More generally, the state of deep mental and physical relaxation that can be achieved in the trance state – including the state of self-hypnosis, which almost anyone can learn – can be extremely beneficial in pain control.