Neuroscience demonstrated that pain perception is regulated by networks whose nodes reside, for a significant part, on cerebral cortex, a structure that is continuously modified by experience1. This finding constitutes a theoretical basis that can finally explain the effectiveness of psychological interventions that aim to manage pain. Among these, hypnosis and self-hypnosis attracted the attention of researchers during the last ten years, because teaching self-hypnosis to suffering patients means providing them a technique that they can autonomously use2,3,4,5. Derbyshire’s study on fibromyalgia patients is especially interesting: after a short training in self-hypnosis, fibromyalgia patients proved to be able to raise, lower and stabilize their pain more effectively than patients in waking state3. Other researches demonstrate also that results obtained with hypnosis tend to be stable and they are accompanied by changes in neural activity, - especially if the intervention begins in early phases of the illness6,7. These results are explained by the fact that patients are not just merely undergoing a treatment, but, learning self-hypnosis, they acquire proactive symptom-management strategies that they can use when needed8,9,10,11.
One of the most promising applications of hypnotic techniques concerns chronic pain, a symptom that can be caused by many medical conditions: for instance, patients who suffer from spinal chord injuries because of accidents. Almost one third of them suffers from chronic pain that rarely regresses12,13 and that doesn’t always respond to pharmacological treatment14,15. A research conducted in 2009 by researchers of the university of Washington and Miami, demonstrated that hypnosis can rapidly lower levels of perceived pain and stabilize them on the long term. Interestingly, results were obtained regardless of the hypnotisability level of patients. Pain is an impairing symptom not only for patients who are affected by chronic conditions, but also, for instance, for patients who survived major burns. Impairments caused by burn pain are so big that it is often necessary to use massive quantities of opioids to contain them16,17. These drugs are not always effective18 and they may cause side effects. Furthermore intense pain slows the healing process17,19, it may cause delirium20,21 or it may favour the onset of a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder22. A recent study19 compared a group of patients who were under standard care protocol and a group that received additional hypnotic interventions to manage pain. In the latter group a faster improvement was observed both from the physical point of view, with soothing of pain, increased drug efficiency, reduced need of general anaesthesia and less occurrence of drowsiness; and from the psychic point of view, with remarkable reductions of anxiety levels, especially related to physical therapies, lower levels of depression and higher levels of well being. Furthermore, patients in the hypnosis group healed more rapidly and considered certain physical therapies, that provoked strong anxiety states in participants from the control group, as pleasant. In other words, hypnosis can be used to reduce pain even when it is caused by medical procedures 23 or by events that are not necessarily connected to severe pathologies or traumas. Another interesting application of hypnosis concerns anaesthesia for childbirth. A review of the literature made in 201124 reports examples in which this kind of approach gave excellent results for recruited subjects. The idea of childbirth often comes with fear of a kind of pain that is usually depicted as one of the most intense ever25. Furthermore subjective pain perception seems to increase along with anxiety levels, thus creating a mechanism that may cause an unpleasant vicious circle26,27. Data indicate that almost all pregnant women ask for anaesthesia28 that is usually carried out using substances or procedures that, in some cases, have side effects that may cause complications in the delivery or hurt the newborn. Researchers of the University of Hartford concluded that, compared to a standard care program 29,30,31,32,33, to supportive counselling sessions34,35, or to prenatal courses36,37,38, hypnosis reduces pain more effectively, especially when carried out in the delivery room. Additionally, a reduction of the first phase of labour, which is often described as the most painful one, can be observed, together with an increase of the newborn’s APGAR score24.
Finally, one of the most common painful chronic syndromes is recurrent headache. Almost 13% of adult population and 20% of children/adolescents have it. Also in this case, hypnosis is very effective, as demonstrated by a research conducted in 201040. This kind of pain, that can become very intense, has consequences on attention, on professional, academic or recreational activities and may lead, especially in children and adolescents, to problems in familial relationships41-45. Even if drugs can often be useful, especially in young patients, they are not always effective and they may cause side effects46. A study conducted by the University of Minneapolis has examined the effects of self-hypnosis in the treatment of such condition. Patients, after a hypnosis session, have reported relief from pain in terms of intensity and frequency. Furthermore, participants, while continuing to use self-hypnosis to control pain, have generalized its use to other situations: dental operations, as an aid to athletic performance and as stress and anxiety management strategy.
In conclusion, we can state that hypnosis represents an useful tool to control intensity, duration and frequency of pain. It can be used both for chronic and acute pain, such as that caused by traumas or medical procedures and for minor conditions that can occur during everyday life. While improving psychological experience of pain, controlling anxiety, stress and depression states, it qualifies itself as a cheaper technique compared to drugs19, which allows patients, after a short training, to autonomously achieve a better state of well being. 

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