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Chronic Pain

The Institute of Medicine of The National Academies estimates that some 100 million Americans suffer with chronic pain and that the annual costs in terms of medical expenses, disability days, lost wages, and lost productivity exceed half a trillion dollars. An estimated 20% of American adults (42 million people) report that pain or physical discomfort disrupts their sleep a few nights a week or more.

Numerous case reports and several clinical studies (cited below) suggest that energy psychology is effective in treating chronic pain. The underlying mechanisms have not been investigated, but they are believed to be related to the demonstrated effectiveness of acupuncture in treating pain combined with the ability of energy psychology to address the emotional roots of physical conditions.

Case Example [summarized from a case reported by Therese Baumgart on www.EFTUniverse.com]:

"Sam" had scheduled an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon for an MRI, with plans of elective surgery for shoulder pain. He had been suffering for about five years from intense pain in his right shoulder and arm, emanating from a torn rotator cuff and tendonitis. He was unable to use his right arm or raise it from his side, except for a few inches, which had consequences in all areas of his life. He also had arm and hand tingling and some numbness. Physical therapy had provided some temporary relief, but the doctor explained that "bone is rubbing on bone."

I had been seeing Sam weekly for about three months, addressing other issues. When I proposed that we focus on his shoulder pain, he was doubtful that EFT would be of any help with either his range of motion or the pain. He insisted that the problem was "physical," but he was open to trying anything to get relief. I explained that I had no doubt it was physical, but that EFT might still be helpful.

Along with having Sam rate his intensity of pain (0 to 10) before and after each round of tapping, I asked him to report the memories or images that came to mind. Among his statements:

I have a serious shoulder injury

I have a painful tear in my right rotator cuff

I can't use my right arm and hand and I feel useless

My shoulder and arm hurt

My shoulder is in pain

My life is painful right now

Mary [his ex-wife] is stuck in my shoulder

Mary wrecked up our marriage and threw it in the trash

Mary, you wrecked up our marriage

Mary, it's all your fault

I still have some of this Mary pain stuck in my shoulder

I can't put my arm around anybody

It's too painful to put my arm around anybody

I don't have anyone to put my arm around

My arm and hand are numb and tingly

I feel emotionally numb

I don't want to feel certain feelings

For each upsetting memory or thought, I had him do a round of tapping, and for some I had him elaborate the memory or thought into a story that he would tell while tapping. For each, I then had him repeat the process until he felt calm and the issue felt "compete."

After three very emotional one-hour sessions, Sam's pain had gone from a 10 to a 0. He had full use of his right hand and arm. He was able to raise his hand completely above his head with no pain ("I can shampoo and comb my hair with my right hand again!"). These improvements persisted, which Sam called "remarkable." He kept his appointment for the MRI, which confirmed that the rotator cuff was still torn, but the surgeon suggested that he should only have surgery if he were in pain. Since he was no longer in pain, he did not proceed with the surgery.

Clinical Trials of EFT for Pain Relief:

Bougea, A. M., Spandideas, N., Alexopoulos, E. C., Thomaides, T., Chrousos, G. P., & Darviri, C. (2013). Effect of the Emotional Freedom Technique on perceived stress, quality of life, and cortisol salivary levels in tension-type headache sufferers: A randomized controlled trial. EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing, 9(2), 91-99. doi:10.1016/j.explore.2012.12.005.

Church, D., & Brooks, A. J. (2010). The effect of a brief EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) self-intervention on anxiety, depression, pain and cravings in healthcare workers. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal, 6, 40-44.

Church, D., & Brooks, A. J. (2014). Pain, depression, and anxiety after PTSD symptom remediation in veterans. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, 10(3), 162 – 169. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2014.02.005.

Hodge, P. M., & Jurgens, C. Y. (2011). Psychological and physiological symptoms of psoriasis after group EFT treatment: A pilot study. Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, & Treatment, 3(2), 13-23. doi:10.9769/EPJ.2011.3.2.PMH.CYJ

Ortner, N., Palmer-Hoffman, J., & Clond, M. A. (2014). Effects of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) on the reduction of chronic pain in adults: A pilot study. Energy Psychology: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 6(2), 14–21. doi:10.9769.EPJ.2014.6.2.NO