Friday, 11 February 2011

Open your eyes – this is going to hurt!

Ouch!  That hurt!  But if it will hurt less if you look at!  That’s the amazing finding of Patrick Haggard at University College London.  When you knock your elbow, graze your knee, bruise your finger, or - wait for it - even have an injection, if you look at the site of the pain it will hurt less.

This amazing finding will turn traditional advice on its head. And what’s more the harder you stare at the affected area, the more your mind is capable of turning down or reducing the feeling of pain. The good news continues - if you magnify the image of the site of the pain then this has the effect of reducing the feeling of pain still further.

During Patrick’s experiments on 18 participants his team found that when applying pain to hands using a painful laser, if the participants could see their hand then they actually felt less pain. And when their hands were magnified using mirrors, the pain reduced still further. Conversely reducing the image of their hand increased the pain experienced.

This has marked implications on the traditional advice given to patients “to look away” when they need an injection.  But for those of you who still don’t feel brave enough to look at the needle then the advice is to view a thing of beauty such a picture of a loved one or a favourite scene, as this will have a pain reducing effect. Distracting or overloading the senses with video games and tasty treats will also help reduce the experience of pain.

The above research helps to support the growing body of knowledge that the power of the mind alone can be the perfect anaesthetic agent.  In hypnosis we can focus the mind to change or modify our feelings on a temporary or permanent basis. For example, hypnotherapy is very successful in dumbing down our “emotional” pain from past events. Equally, it is used very successfully to manage acute “physical” pain situations such as when experiencing dental work, natural birthing, and minor or major surgery.

Andy Cox, clinical hypnotherapist at Assured Effects Hypnotherapy in Poole, Dorset explained “We have known for centuries that the mind has the remarkable ability to control pain.  What I love about this recent research is that it demonstrates we all have this innate ability to turn down our or remove our discomfort, but that few of us choose to use it, and society encourages us not to!  During my hypnotherapy sessions I train my clients to use self-hypnosis and this is instrumental in them controlling both acute and chronic physical pain, and the accompanying anxiety that goes with it.”

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