Having used hypnosis to assist my clients for the last 17 years, I had encountered it all. You name it; fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy, arthritis, cancer pain, bone pain, tendonitis, and phantom limb pain. Having first experienced the seemingly miraculous results that could often be facilitated with hypnosis, when I was the Senior Hospital Corpsman on the Oncology floor at the San Diego Naval Medical Center, my passion for helping other get pain relief was intense.
When my fiancé had a below the knee amputation of her right leg, or a transtibial amputation, her phantom limb pain was almost immediately. She was getting IV Dilaudid, a powerful narcotic, every two hours, and a significant dose, at that. She was also getting Hydrocodone, Valium and Flexeril. Nothing was touching it. Nothing. As excruciating as it was, and as hard as it was to see her in pain, I knew her personality all too well. If I attempted to help her with hypnosis before she asked me to, there would be a part of her that would fight me. I waited.
After about two weeks and tears, and at times, screams and groans as she writhed in agony, sometimes for 2-3 hours at a time, she finally said “Why in the hell will not you help me ?!” That was her way of saying “I'm ready for you now.”
Lisa is an RN and had worked several years as a labor and delivery nurse, so she was familiar with how her future could look, if she did not get this handled. 60% -80% of those who have an amputation experience phantom limb pain. For many, it lasts for years. For some, a lifetime. Clearly, she did not want that, and I did not want it for her, or, for us.
With a clear understanding of how the brain maps out every square inch of the body, and how it gets confused about how to handle those neurological maps when the body that had been mapped out, changes-as it does a body part is amputated- I knew that the brain was where she would have to make the needed changes.
In my first session with her, she experienced more of a decrease in her phantom limb pain than she had from anything else. At best, the narcotics and other medicines had taken the edge off, but she was still in terrible pain. After the first hypnosis session, she actually felt a surge in confidence and self-control. She fought, but these were not tears of pain. They were tears of relief. She had hope, and reason to believe that things were going to improve considerably.
Future sessions bought more relief, and a brighter outlook on life. More importantly, she has learned a skill set. She has tools that she knows she can use for the rest of her life, and at 39 years old, she likely has many good years left.
There is a reason why The National Institutes of Health recognizes hypnosis as a valuable tool for the treatment of phantom limb pain: It works.