“You are getting sleepy”—or so the saying goes. But, actually, experts now know that hypnosis is nothing like sleep, because the brain is hyperfocused and aware, allowing it to be more receptive to “suggestions.” And while the method was once considered the subject of freaky stage shows, hypnosis is finding its way into a small but growing number of doctors’ offices, as these physicians, pushed by their patients, hunt for natural, side-effect-free techniques.
I’ve experienced hypnosis myself, and in addition to getting good healing results, I found it deliciously relaxing. Not surprisingly, it’s also proving its power in research. When patients get into this trance-like state—with a therapist or, eventually, by themselves—it changes the brain enough to allow the body to heal.
Here are some impressive areas where scientists have documented the method’s success:
Stops hot flashes. Women who had five weekly sessions of hypnosis (plus doing it daily themselves at home) had a whopping 68 percent drop in hot flash frequency and severity—some 4 fewer flashes per day!—than women who didn’t, found a study by Baylor University funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Banishes headache pain. A review of headache studies in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis in 2007 found it is a “well-established treatment that is both efficacious and specific.” For one thing, imagining yourself in a peaceful place during hypnosis encourages the brain to release feel-good endorphins, says Steven Gurgevich, Ph.D., author of the book, Hypnosis House Call.
Improves TMJ. Forty women suffering from TMJ (inflammation of the temporomandibular joint around the jaw) who had four 1-hour hypnosis sessions and also practiced at home reported much less daily pain than a control group doing other relaxation techniques.
Speeds recovery from surgery. Women asked for less pain medicine after having a breast biopsy when they were hypnotized before going under the knife, Boston’s Beth Israel Medical Center discovered.
Image credit: Roger McLassus / Flickr