Orla Kirby explains how hypnotherapy can help your body treat migraines with its own natural resources
All kinds of pain, including migraine headaches, are a form of signalling. They are your own nervous system communicating with itself.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can alter this signalling, which may have become stuck in a certain habitual pattern, by physically altering what is going on in your spinal cord, your brain stem and your brain.
So how does hypnotherapy work to treat migraine?
Hypnotherapy is a combination of:
- education on how your own brain works and how to use it more effectively
- focused talking work that gets you active in your brain in an entirely different and more beneficial way from before
- deep relaxation work, which has a de-stressing effect of its own, and also allows the mental space necessary for the work on thought patterns and brain use to be effective.
How does this help your body?
This process puts you into an entirely different kind of mental functioning. In this mentally renewed state you are necessarily producing much higher and more even, consistent levels of serotonin and noradrenaline, as well as much higher and steadier levels of endorphins and enkephalins.
Closing the pain gate
The production of serotonin and noradrenaline works within the spinal cord to excite inhibitory neurons, which will then block the pathway, or some of the pathways, which the pain signalling would otherwise travel along. This process is known, under the Pain Gate Theory, as ‘closing the pain gate’. It is a cumulative process, with the body and brain and nervous system gradually relearning new patterns and responses, so that you can be gradually released from unnecessary pain signalling.
Natural pain relief
In an additional and more immediate benefit, endorphins, the levels of which are also dramatically boosted as part of the process of hypnotherapy, interact with the opiate receptors in the brain to reduce or perception of pain. They act in a similar way to drugs such as morphine and codeine.
Enkephalins, high levels of which are produced, along also with further supplies of endorphins, when the inhibitory neurone are closing the pain gate, provide yet more help. They link with particular receptors in any brain cell that’s sending out pain signalling, and in this way block the pain signalling in the brain, preventing the same message from being carried round and round your brain and body endlessly.
How many sessions will I need?
Because of these different elements at play, I would expect a migraine sufferer to see some relief and improvement by around the sixth or seventh session. However, for the process to be fully effective and to achieve long-term change, it is more likely that you will have nine to 12 sessions. This is because it takes at least this length of time to significantly alter established brain patterns and responses in a way that is firm and established.
For information on how other therapies can help, see the other articles in this series during Migraine Awareness Week:
- Yesterday, our massage therapist Piia Laakso shared how her specific approach can help both prevent migraine and relieve the pain of existing headaches
- On Thursday: Julie Kelham explains how acupuncture can help treat the root cause of migraines
- On Friday: Rowan Jamal looks at the research evidence on how massage helps treat migraine, and in particular looks at the benefits of aromatherapy
For details of other therapies on offer at the Alma Vale Centre, see the therapies section of our website.