Hypnosis: Does it Work?
In recent years, hypnosis has become an accepted medical therapy to address a variety of conditions, including childbirth pain and weight loss, which are concerns for many women. This increased popularity is probably due to research that shows hypnosis can produce profound improvements in health–though we know very little about the mechanisms by which these improvements are made. The word hypnosis comes from ancient Greek and means “a mental state like sleep” -but as a therapy, it isn’t so easily defined. Though hypnosis produces changes in the body, it appears as if these physiological changes occur through our own mental processes.
Hypnosis was first used medically in the mid-1800s as an antidote to pain during surgery. Anesthetics had not yet been discovered, and 50% of all surgical patients died from the neurogenic shock of extreme pain. Before hypnosis, surgeons could offer their patients only shots of strong alcohol.
Then, with the aid of hypnosis, the Scottish surgeon James Esdaile performed about 3000 surgeries between 1845 and 1851 in India without any reported patient pain and with a death rate reduced to 5%. At this same time, anesthesia began being used in the U.S., and the comparative ease of administering drugs meant that hypnosis was never again the pain killer of choice for surgeons.
Since Esdaile’s time, however, scientists have continued to study the positive effects of hypnosis for many medical procedures, e.g., postoperative pain, and pain related to childbirth.
In fact a major university, Stanford Medical Center, offers hypnosis training for many medical procedures and conditions.