The unique effects of hypnosis on the brain suggest that it can be a powerful way to relieve pain—and might even be an alternative to opioids, one expert believes. When Dr. David Spiegel emerged from a three-hour shoulder surgery in 1972, he didn’t use any pain meds to recover. Instead, he hypnotized himself. It worked—to the surprise of everyone but Dr. Spiegel, who has studied hypnosis, a state of highly focused attention and intense concentration, for 45 years. “Patient using very little pain medication”, he remembers reading from his chart when he snuck a peek. We mustn’t have cut many nerves.
“There’s an incision from the top to the bottom of my shoulder, so they cut plenty of nerves,” Spiegel says now. “I was just handling the pain myself.”