Why is Hypnosis Effective in Pain Control?

  • Paul Sacerdote


The author briefly reviews the concepts of “pain” and the distinctions between pain and suffering. He then reviews some of the theoretical constructs that have been advanced to explain the effectiveness of hypnosis in pain control. These include psychological abstractions, psycho-social observations and generalizations, analysis of communications between patient and hypnotizer, anatomic, neuro-physiologic and bio-chemical conjectures, behavioral principles, and psycho-analytical theories, among others.

He sees little or no contradiction between the different view points which simply examine different facets of the same phenomena from distinct frames of reference. Within the general conceptualization of learning theory it can be hypothesized that hypnosis facilitates certain learning processes: the translation of every-day language (verbal, numerical, visual, audial, etc.) into neurophysio-logical, bio-chemical, anatomical language which the unconscious areas of our nervous system can understand, activate and communicate to other organs, systems, and individual cells. Concepts of learning, of different languages do not seem so outlandish since the discovery of the genetic code.


Pain Control Distinct Frame Mystical State Satisfactory Compensation Direct Suggestion 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Crasilneck, H. B., Stirman, J. A., Wilson, B. J., McCranie, E. J., and Frogelman, M. J,, 1955, Use of hypnosis in the management of patients with burns,, 158:(2)103–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Erickson, M. H., 1958, Hypnosis in painful terminal illness, Am.J. clin.Hypnosis, 1:117–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Hilgard, E. R., and Hilgard, J. R., 1975, Hypnosis in the Relief of Pain, Los Altos, Calif., Kaufmann, 86–102.Google Scholar
  4. Margolis, C. G., and DeClement, F. A., 1980, Hypnosis in the treatment of burns, Burns, 6:253–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Melzack, R., and Wall, P. D., 1965, Pain mechanisms: a new theory, Science, 150:971–969.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Sacerdote, P., 1962, The place of hypnosis in the relief of severe protracted pain, Am.J.clin.Hypnosis, 4:150–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Sacerdote, P., Terminal cancer’s pain: relief through hypnotherapy, in: “Psychosomatic Aspects of Neoplastic Disease,” D. M. Kissen and L. L. Le Shan (eds.), Lippincott, New York, 121–130.Google Scholar
  8. Sacerdote, P., 1965, Additional contributions to the hypnotherapy of the advanced cancer patient, Am.J.clin.Hypnosis, 8:308–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Sacerdote, P., 1966a, Hypnosis in cancer patients, Am.J.clin.Hypnosis, 9:100–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Sacerdote, P., 1966b, The uses of hypnosis in cancer patients. Proceedings: Conference on Psychophysiological aspects of cancer. Annal N. Y. Acad. Sciences, 125:1011–1019.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Sacerdote, P., 1968a, Psychophysiology of hypnosis as it relates to pain and pain problems, Am.J.clin.Hypnosis, 10:236–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Sacerdote, P., 1968b, Involvement and communication with the terminally ill patient, Am.J.clin.Hypnosis, 10:244–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Saderdote, P., 1970, Theory and practice of pain control in malignancy and other protracted or recurring painful illness, Int.J.clin.exp.Hypnosis, 18:160–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Sacerdote, P., 1972, Eclectic approaches to hypnotherapy, Am.J.Psychother, 26:511–520.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Sacerdote, P., 1974, Convergence of Expectations: An essential component for successful hypnotherapy, Int.J.clin.exp.Hypnosis, 22:95–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Sacerdote, P., 1977a, Applications of hypnotically elicited mystical states to the treatment of physical and emotional pain, Int.J. clin.exp.Hypnosis, 25:309–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Sacerdote, P., 1977b, Hypnotherapy in managing terminally ill patients, Cat.T.62, Cat.64, BMA Audio Cassette Publ., New York.Google Scholar
  18. Sacerdote, P., 1978, Induced dreams: About the theory and therapeutic applications of dreams hypnotically induced, Gaus, New York.Google Scholar
  19. Sacerdote, P., 1980, Hypnosis and terminal illness, in: “Handbook of Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Medicine,” G. D. Burrows and L. Dennerstein (eds.), Elsevier/North Holland Biomedical, Amsterdam, 421–442.Google Scholar
  20. Sacerdote, P., 1982, Erickson’s, Contribution to Pain Control in Cancer, in: “Ericksonian Approaches to Hypnosis and Psychotherapy,” Zeig, (ed.), Brunner/Mazel, Inc., New York.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Sacerdote
    • 1
  1. 1.Montefoire Hospital and Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of MedicineNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations