Some feelings that you are not noticing right now are a good example of how hypnosis works to control pain. For example, you have probably not been noticing the feelings of temperature on the inside of your left elbow until you read this sentence. The sensations are there, but your conscious attention is on the computer screen in front of you, and the words that you are reading.
You have likely had the experience of noticing a bruise, bump, or scratch that must have happened earlier, but you did not notice it until when you saw it sometime later. Not only that, it looks like it should hurt, but there is no pain.
So, what is going on?
Research has shown that the mechanisms of hypnotic pain control are different than the way drugs work. Drugs alter the chemistry of the nerves so that pain impulses are muted or eliminated. In someone using hypnosis for pain control, there is no change in the pain impulses coming from the nerves. The nerves are sending the pain signals, they just never enter conscious awareness. So, the person is simply unaware of any pain.
Some of the reasons that hypnosis is not used more commonly by medical doctors are that hypnosis is time consuming, drugs are easier to measure and administer than hypnosis, and drugs are not as dependent on the doctor establishing and maintaining rapport with the patient.
Advantages of using hypnosis for pain control include that there is no possibility of overdose, toxicity, or addiction. Another advantage is that hypnosis never triggers allergic responses. That is why it is sometimes used for surgical anesthesia for patients who cannot tolerate drugs.