Hypnosis Helps Decrease Fibromyalgia Pain

Published: July 21, 2012

Is your doctor "putting a curse on you?" Odd as this may sound, this is what is occurring in much of how physicians approach their patients. Let's look at the power of words in the healing process, using fibromyalgia pain and hypnosis as examples. We have progressed to the point where we can actually see the areas associated with fibromyalgia pain light up on brain scans. As an aside, there are not many idiots who still believe that the pain is not real, but the brain scan changes should help those few recover from being fools.

Most sensation (whether it is hot, cold, wet or pain) can be modified using hypnosis. I paid my way through medical school as a children's hospital intensive care unit nurse, and learned hypnosis in medical school. My goal was to help decrease the pain of dressing changes being done for children in the burn units. I have been impressed at our ability to use our mind to increase or decrease pain and other physical processes.

In this study, functional MRI scans were done to look for activation of pain areas in people with fibromyalgia. Interestingly, simply suggesting that pain would lower did decrease both the pain and MRI changes. This suggests that the suggestions your physician gives you (e.g., there is hope vs. "no one can get you well") become self-fulfilling prophecies. If fact, statements like "no one can get you well" used to be called putting a "curse" on someone. Yet this is what physicians often do—ignoring how their words have the power to harm as well as heal.

What makes these "curse" statements by physicians so nasty is that they are wrong and borne of ignorance. Most physicians these days are aware, almost exclusively, of only the most expensive medications, surgery and procedures. They believe this puts them scientifically on the cutting edge, not realizing that what they think is science is really slick advertising by drug companies masquerading as educational activities. A quick check of which companies sponsor a conference and what percentage of speakers are promoting these companies' products (for big bucks) should quickly disabuse one from thinking the conference is much more than an advertisement. Journals also are effected by the drug advertising (ever wonder why you never see ads for cars or golf clubs in medical journals? No one would be insane enough to pay for those ads—except that it buys "good relationships" with the journal's handlers. The silver lining to this problem is that the scientific literature is also full of studies showing effective therapy for many "untreatable" medical problems. These are usually so cheap, though, that doctors never hear about them (they tend to be in smaller journals with fewer drug ads). So what the physician is really saying is that "there are no extremely expensive medications for your problem that the drug company propaganda has indoctrinated me about, so I can't help you." Tell them thanks for their honesty, and go find a holistic physician who has looked at the rest of the science—and who usually can help. (see the American Board of Holistic Medicine to find a doctor). To do your own medical sleuthing, get a medical report on your illness from Jan Guthrie at the Health Resource. I never cease to be amazed at studies they find showing help for "untreatable" problems.

But back to the study... suggestions of pain relief given under hypnosis were even more effective at decreasing pain sensation and the amount of stimulation of pain areas in the brain. All this goes to show that your ability to affect the outcome of your illness should not be underrated. In fact, a large part of the Art of Medicine is working with you to mobilize your own internal healing abilities. That medicine has derisively called your ability to affect healing the "placebo effect," suggesting that only the doctor has the power to help you—and that anything you do on your own shows you are crazy—shows how aggressively the medical establishment works to disempower you. But you do have the ability to often heal yourself given good information. As it is said, "Knowledge is power!"


Fibromyalgia pain and its modulation by hypnotic and non-hypnotic suggestion: An fMRI analysis. Stuart W G Derbyshire, Matthew G Whalley, and David A Oakley. Eur J Pain, July 22, 2008; PMID: 18653363

Jacob Teitelbaum, MD

is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.

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