Written and reviewed by Ralph Miller, certified clinical hypnotherapist | Edited by Sahar Miller | Last Update November 13, 2020

1 in 3 Americans know someone who has an opiate addiction and deaths from accidental overdose due to opiates are up significantly. As a result, many people are turning to alternative and complementary medicine to help manage pain.

In fact, you’re probably wondering, will hypnosis work for pain management?

Well, we know hypnosis doesn’t addict people and it doesn’t kill people either, and it does reduce pain. If you’re ready for some additional details, read on….

Man holds neck in pain

What is Hypnosis

David Spiegel of Stanford University’s School of Medicine spoke to the World Economic Forum. He has used hypnosis with over 7,000 research subjects and patients. He shares that “hypnosis is a state of highly focused attention.”

It also involves, “Suspending critical judgement, so you don’t judge and evaluate, you just do.”

Hypnosis also affects the coordination in the brain between the executive control center and the part of the brain that controls decision making and conflict resolution. This results in what Spiegel shares as less time judging and more time doing.

Two other effects of hypnosis Spiegel discusses are:

  1. Control over body function and perception
  2. Reduction in self reflection (no longer worry about something)

So basically, hypnosis is a state of focused attention, where you focus more on the positive things you do want, focus less on the negative things you don’t want, and stop judging yourself so much over the actions you are taking.

Now, you may be wondering if there are side effects, so let’s talk about that next…

Are there side effects?

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs states that, “Hypnosis tends to be very safe,” and suggests its use for reducing anxiety, improving sleep, and managing pain.

Various studies and meta-analysis have reported on the safety of hypnosis, including Hauser et al and Zech et al, confirming its safety. In addition, Time did a piece on how safe is hypnosis, quoting Dr, Andrew Weil, who states: “I think it should be much more widely used. It’s safe, it’s inexpensive and it can produce dramatic results.”

One caution, however, is that using hypnosis to work through traumatic past events can lead to strong emotional reactions.

Rare side effects of hypnosis are usually short in duration and include:

  1. Drowsiness
  2. Headache
  3. Dizziness
  4. Anxiety

Does Hypnosis Work for Pain? 

As stated earlier, many professionals and institutions, like the VA, recommend the use of hypnosis for pain management and attest to its safety. In addition, this meta-analysis of 85 studies, stating that their findings suggest that “hypnotic intervention can deliver meaningful pain relief for most people and therefore may be an effective and safe alternative to pharmaceutical intervention.”

It’s the “most people” part that kinda stands out, right? Not everyone…just most people. As with most treatments, hypnotherapy is not a cure-all, and while it has been found to be effective, it is not guaranteed to work on everyone.

How will you know if it will work for you? 

Thompson and his researchers state that “Efficacy [of hypnosis] was strongly influenced by hypnotic suggestibility.” 

Are you suggestible? 

If you think hypnotherapy will work for you, there is a strong chance it will. On the other hand, if you’re one of those people that sits across from your hypnotherapist with your eyes forced open insisting, “There’s no way you’re going to hypnotize me!” the chances are, the therapist will not be able to help you.

What Type of Pain Can Hypnosis Help?

When it comes to managing pain, hypnosis may be used to help reduce the experience of pain in conjunction with the following:

How Many Sessions?

The number of sessions needed to help relieve pain will depend on the type of pain you are experiencing and should be discussed with your physician and any other appropriate healthcare providers, including your hypnotherapist.


The cost of treatment for pain management will depend on how many sessions you need and will also vary by the skill level of your practitioner as well as your geographic location.

Frequently asked questions

Does hypnosis work for pain?

Yes, research supports the use of hypnosis for pain management.

Does Medicare cover hypnotherapy pain?

No, Medicare doesn’t cover hypnotherapy for pain. If you experience low back pain, Medicare does cover acupuncture for chronic low back pain.

How often should I get hypnosis for pain?

It is advisable to discuss the frequency of your hypnosis treatments for pain with a professional hypnotherapist in your area.

Hypnotherapy Session for Pain

This 16-minute hypnosis session for pain takes you through a progressive relaxation:

Other Alternatives 

There are many complementary and alternative therapies that may help with pain, including:

Getting Started

Before getting started with hypnosis for pain, be sure to talk with your physician or medical professional about getting a proper medical diagnosis and what treatment recommendations are appropriate for your condition. 

Work with a professional hypnotherapist in your area to determine how hypnosis may best help you and the frequency of treatment that’s right for you.


Häuser, W., Hagl, M., Schmierer, A., & Hansen, E. (2016). The Efficacy, Safety and Applications of Medical Hypnosis. Deutsches Arzteblatt international, 113(17), 289–296. https://doi.org/10.3238/arztebl.2016.0289

Sifferlin A. (2015). How Safe is Hypnosis? Retrieved November 13, 2020, from https://time.com/4068201/how-safe-is-hypnosis/ 

Thompson, T., Terhune, D. B., Oram, C., Sharangparni, J., Rouf, R., Solmi, M., Veronese, N., & Stubbs, B. (2019). The effectiveness of hypnosis for pain relief: A systematic review and meta-analysis of 85 controlled experimental trials. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews, 99, 298–310. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2019.02.013

U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. hypnosis. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/hypnosis Zech, N., Hansen, E., Bernardy, K., & Häuser, W. (2017). Efficacy, acceptability and safety of guided imagery/hypnosis in fibromyalgia – A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. European journal of pain (London, England), 21(2), 217–227. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejp.933