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                                                                     Fibromyalgia and Hypnosis

by C. Devin Hastings








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In the Land of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), there is a fundamental tenant which is: “The meaning of the communication is the response you get.” 


This lesson was brought home to me one particular evening when I said to my two sons: “Good night boys.  And remember, invite the angels into your dreams.”


To which my 6 year old asks: “Daddy, why do I want to bite angels in my dreams?”


And I intelligently (?) replied: “Only the shabby angels son.” 


“Daddy, what does shabby mean?”  “Um, you know, their harp is out of tune and uh, their toes are dirty, their halo needs polishing, that sort of thing.”


And now my original communication has devolved into the boys telling me at night to bite only one or two shabby angels in my dreams.


How did this happen?  I don’t know.  I think it’s a mystery that only the angels can solve.


The point to the above?  Communication can, and often does, take many twists and turns and fibromyalgia is a condition that communicates via many different symptoms.  So, the following is intended to hopefully help the reader to listen with their ‘3rd ear’ to the communication(s) from the condition.




This below article is adapted with permission from the book: “21st Century Medicine: Clinical Evidence For The Healing Power of The Mind”.


According to the Mayo Clinic, “doctors don’t know what causes fibromyalgia”.  Physical or emotional trauma may play a role in development of the syndrome and some evidence suggests that fibromyalgia patients have abnormal pain transmission responses.  (More will be said shortly about “abnormal pain transmission responses” because there is some very exciting information I want to share with you.)


Another cause of fibromyalgia may be sleep difficulties, which are common symptoms in fibromyalgia patients. 


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) database suggests that the disorder may possibly be caused by decreased blood flow which can then cause chronic fatigue and weakness.  And to learn more about the harmful effects of decreased blood flow, I strongly recommend Dr. Sarno’s book, The Divided Mind: The Epidemic of MindBody Disorders.


Let’s look at some of the symptoms (communications) of fibromyalgia syndrome:


-Multiple tender areas in the muscles or joints areas of the back of the neck, shoulders, sternum, lower back, hips, shins, elbows, knees


-Sleep disturbances

-General body aches

-Reduced exercise tolerance

-Chronic facial muscle pain or aching

-Morning stiffness


-Vision problems


-Sleep disorders


-Chronic headaches

-Cold symptoms


-Multiple chemical sensitivity

-Cognitive or memory impairment

-Skin complains

-Chest symptoms





The above list makes it easy to understand why fibromyalgia generally is not treated as a single issue problem. 


And this is frustrating to sufferers and medical professionals because there is no single solution due to the fact that it consists of so many symptoms which can change at any time!  


Understandably, health care providers and sufferers are looking for a single shot solution and who can blame them?


The problem is, if a person keeps trying the same thing over and over hoping for improved results and they’re still getting the same lousy outcome, then it’s time to think outside the box.  If they don’t, they will just keep getting what they have been getting for results.


So, let’s start thinking outside of the “pill box” now with a question: If a clinically proven mindbody method could help with many symptoms of FMS, wouldn’t that be worth looking at?  Absolutely.


And, in order to get down to symptoms that may be amenable to the positively directed power of the mind (hypnosis), let’s have a look at some specific symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome:


-Multiple tender areas in the muscles or joints areas of the back of the neck, shoulders, sternum, lower back, hips, shins, elbows, knees


-Sleep disturbances

-General body aches

-Reduced exercise tolerance

-Chronic facial muscle pain or aching


If you notice, the above symptoms really boil down to three categories: Pain, fatigue and sleep problems.


And let’s bear in mind that American College of Rheumatology (ACR) guidelines direct doctors making a fibromyalgia diagnosis to test 18 specific points on the body for tenderness.  Their criteria state that pain at 11 of the 18 points may indicate fibromyalgia.


So, the general consensus is that fibromyalgia is primarily characterized by pain followed by fatigue and sleep problems.


The question then is this: If a single method existed that was already proven to help with pain, fatigue and sleep problems, then that method could help a fibromyalgia sufferer, right?


And such a method exists.  And, it is clinically proven. It is the power of the mind.  A few of many proven mind power methods are hypnosis, autogenic training, Open Focus® training, meditation and more.  By far, hypnosis has the most researched and longest history of success.


Now let’s look at fatigue.  If an FMS sufferer has no other medical reason (disease or drug) explaining their fatigue, then what could be causing it?  A few simple answers come to mind: lack of sleep, pain, undiagnosed depression or other untreated, draining emotions.


Let me ask you a few questions please: Can a lack of sleep cause fatigue?  Can emotional or physical pain cause sleep problems? Of course the answer is yes.


And doesn’t it make sense that even if pain somehow doesn’t cause sleep problems, couldn’t physical or emotional pain cause fatigue during the day? 


(By the way, if you are an FMS sufferer reading this, please know that a person doesn’t have to be clinically depressed to be carrying around a “painful” amount of sadness.)


The ultimate point here is that poor sleep and/or pain of some sort can be direct causes of fibromyalgia. 


And also keep in mind that addressing painful emotional issues is also very important to consider because most people have them and so, they can likely be a cause once “real” physical pain problems and/or medication explanations have been eliminated.


I emphasize “real” pain because you need to understand something called “Conversion Disorders”.  Conversion disorders are when your feeling mind ‘converts’ emotional pain to very real physical problems.  And, I also mentioned medications as a possible explanation because sometimes drugs have unpleasant and painful side effects that can cause disease-like symptoms.


With that being said, it is critical to understand that sometimes “a cigar is just a cigar” meaning that sometimes a person simply hasn’t learned to sleep well because, for some reason, they learned to sleep poorly.  Sleeping, whether sound or not, often is just a matter of habit.


And without going into a huge amount of detail, keep in mind that poor sleeping habits can and do lead to a host of very real and painful physical and emotional problems – such as the first ones listed in the list of FMS symptoms. 


If you are curious about just how important sleep is, then I suggest you read Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar and Survival by Formby and Wiley.  In their incredible book they discuss (with an astonishing amount of solid evidence) how a lack of sleep can inhibit the production of prolactin and melatonin thereby seriously damaging our immune systems thus causing depression, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other very serious problems.


With all the above being understood, it stands to reason that fibromyalgia is most likely a symptom of other well known conditions the most likely of which are untreated emotional burdens and poor sleep.  And by the way, poor sleep will definitely add to one’s emotional burdens.


Remember, an easy, sensible and effective way to address fibromyalgia syndrome, even if it emotionally based, is to treat poor sleep habits.  And no, not with pills unless a person is dangerously sleep deprived.  “First do no harm.” 


As I have said before, I am not against medications because they can do a great deal of good.  What I am very much opposed to is the unnecessary prescription of medications when a simpler, safer and ultimately more effective method will do.  A pill does not teach good sleep habits; it encourages dependency. 


Here is slightly different version of a well known proverb: “Give a man a pill and he will sleep well for a night.  Teach him to sleep and he will sleep well for a lifetime.”

(Here is your free pain reduction gift.  Click here to download a better night's sleep.)


Now, do you remember a little while ago I mentioned “abnormal pain transmission responses” may be another possible cause of fibromyalgia? 


What that means is that a person’s brain may be supersensitive in that it amplifies normal signals to a painful level.  If that sounds crazy, it isn’t.  Read The Open Focus Brain: Harnessing the Power of Attention to Heal Mind and Body by Les Fehmi Ph.D.


Like Dr. Sarno, Dr. Fehmi has clinical case studies that will open new doors of hope.  Dr. Fehmi’s essential point is that because some people have such a constant and narrow focus in their attention to daily life that deep tension in their psyche and their body is the result.


As a result, narrow focus leads to chronically tense emotional and physical muscles that a person ends up being supersensitive to stimuli that normally shouldn’t cause pain or other physical problems.


 “Narrow focus” can also be caused by deep emotional tension.  Fehmi’s well founded belief is that people often (but not always) maintain narrow focus of attention in order to avoid thinking about and dealing with emotional issues. 


And sometimes, like poor sleep habits, a chronic narrow focus of attention is simply a bad habit.  And, using Dr. Fehmi’s methods, chronic, narrow focus can be unlearned. 


Or a person can learn about self-hypnosis and its benefits. In either case, his book is a must read.


Now, let’s look at some proof that hypnosis can help with fibromyalgia.


In the January, 1991 issue of The Journal of Rheumatology there is an article titled: “Controlled trial of hypnotherapy in the treatment of refractory fibromyalgia.”


The article discusses how a controlled study was done with 40 patients who had “refractory fibromyalgia”.  This means their condition was resistant to cure or treatment. 


One group had 12 weeks of physical therapy and the other had 12 weeks of hypnotherapy.  And then a follow up was done 3 months later.


Although not stunning, the results are still worthy of consideration.  Specifically, “the patients in the hypnotherapy group showed a significantly better outcome with respect to their pain experience, fatigue on awakening, sleep pattern and global assessment at 12 and 24 weeks.”


I said the results were not stunning because even though the patients treated by hypnotherapy did better than the other group (as measured by the Hopkins Symptom Checklist), there were a number of them who still had strong feelings of discomfort.


An item of interest that might escape most people when reviewing the above mentioned study is that the Hopkins Symptom Checklist (HSCL) is a screening instrument designed in the 1950’s that measures symptoms of anxiety and depression.


What does this mean?  Several things but what I want to especially point out is that it means the study participants who were treated with hypnotherapy had diminished symptoms of depression and anxiety.  It also makes one wonder: what if they had received another 3 months of hypnotherapy?  Would they have gotten even better? 


I am also curious: What type of hypnotherapy was administered?  My point is that 17 years ago, the methodology may have been less effective than what currently exists. 


At any rate, what was the final assessment by the researchers? 


“We conclude hypnotherapy may be useful in relieving symptoms in patients with refractory fibromyalgia.”


The ultimate point to this article on fibromyalgia syndrome is that FMS is a group of symptoms all of which can be treated by proven mindbody methods—especially hypnosis.  It just requires thinking outside of the box. 



“It is through science that we prove, but through intuition that we discover."

- Henri Poincare




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