Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Cheryl, Dec 20, 2018.
Has anyone tried EMDR and or EFT for chronic pain?
I don't know about EFT, but I have been wondering this too about EMDR. I started EMDR this past fall to work on repressed childhood trauma (emotional neglect). I have two narcissistic parents, and this was suggested as a good type of therapy for adult children of narcissists in the book "Will I Ever Be Good Enough?" by Karyl McBride. First, I made sure to find a therapist who is certified in EMDR and somatic therapy. When we do a session, she often asks me to describe what I'm sensing in my body (it goes right along with Alan Gordon's recovery program on this site). While she had vaguely heard of Dr. Sarno, she is very open to me explaining TMS and Dr. Sarno's theories.
First belief I've worked on: "I'm not important" to "I am important" (this took me quite a few weeks/sessions until I felt I changed the belief). I also made connections to everyday activities where this belief of not being important was coming up -- such as waiting in line for something, or if I felt slighted that someone didn't say hello in passing. I often feel a rise in pain after things like this. I think that working on changing this belief has lead to a little bit more awareness of these subtle everyday triggers.
Second belief (still currently doing): "It's my fault" to "It's not my fault" and "My feelings are valid." So, in trying to make connections to everyday triggers, I find that I smile a lot when talking with someone. Not that this is a bad thing, but I know this comes from the negative belief that I am responsible for someone else's feelings. There is this worry in my subconscious that I need to be good, to please, to be perfect, not rock the boat, etc. I don't think that means I'm going to start smiling less! But I'm trying to remind myself that I am not responsible for how this person feels, and I think that's going to take me a lot of practice.
As all of this focuses on deeply ingrained beliefs, I think it supports TMS treatment. However, I recently read a study about a woman with chronic arm pain who used EMDR to change negative thoughts about the pain itself (such as “I’m a burden” to “I’m doing the best I can” and "There’s something wrong with me” to “Everything is just where it should be"). This study was not about TMS. The woman was injured in a car accident, I believe, healed and then had severe lingering pain. The EMDR improved her quality of life, but it didn't say that it fully took away the pain. But that got me wondering: Would it be targeting the pain -- or putting TOO much emphasis on the pain -- to try this if you know you're going into it with the knowledge that you ARE healed and that this pain is from oversensitized nerves or mild oxygen deprivation? Maybe the beliefs could be changed from something like, "This pain is killing me" to "This pain is harmless, I am safe, I'm peaceful" (etc.).
And this leads me to wonder about ACCEPTANCE. So many people who have healed say that things didn't truly turn around for them until they accepted that the pain is here now and that they just need to get on with living their life the best way that they can, despite the pain. I just can't figure out how to do this. I logically understand it's like one of those Chinese finger traps -- the more you struggle, the tighter it gets. But then once you stop resisting, it loosens up. So if my subconscious can't figure this out, then could EMDR help with this too? Could we change a belief like "I have to fight this pain" to "I accept that there is pain now and I can still live my life with this pain"?
In my last session, I did ask my therapist about phobias. Since EMDR is used to treat phobias like fear of flying, could it be used to treat a fear of movement, such as getting up out of a chair, bending over, etc.? She thought that it might and is worth a try, but she doesn't have experience with doing that (with movement directly) with any patients. I'm not starting that yet since I'm still working on my second belief (there's this rating system for how true you feel that it is). They want to get you down to a 0 out of 10 for how true you believe the thought is. It was pretty incredible for me to feel that first belief as untrue -- it just didn't even sound right to me anymore to think "I'm not important".
As an aside, I am also doing positive affirmations in the mirror (Louise Hay). Once I started doing those, the pain started skyrocketing around my body like crazy (the symptom imperative). It's really interesting to me that there is now pain that wakes me up around 4 a.m. (so far, in the form of deep aching legs and hips, a pulled neck muscle and hives). My therapist said that it's still unknown exactly how EMDR works, but they do know that it mimics REM sleep. She said that it's interesting that this pain is waking me up around that time, which is the time you go into REM sleep.
So I'd say that EMDR is definitely worth a try. But I'd love to know what others think about using it for the pain itself, acceptance of the pain and fear of movement. For many years, I've fallen into the trap of trying too hard. Is this trying too hard, or can it just be another tool we can use to rewire the brain about pain?
@Pemberley, thank you so much for this post. I am really intrigued by EMDR. I wish I could afford/had insurance coverage for therapy. I too woke up at 4 this morning. This happens for me 2-3 times a week. Funny/ironic because last night my legs were tremendously tight and aching/painful. I had some very wild emotional dreams about various things that have happened recently. I go back and forth between wanting to be alone (I'm currently living with my best friend's parents) to missing my husband, my dad (deceased), all the deaths we've experienced in our family the last 2 years. Yet more than anything I can think of right now I want my own apartment and space. This will come in time, I know, being patient is
It's a myriad of crazy emotions. I woke up with my legs feeling better, but severely upset stomach and feeling emotionally nuts. I made myself come to work today, on the verge of tears but holding them back until I can let it all go after I'm out of the office. I don't even know for sure why I'm sad, except I miss my husband (even though it was a completely unhealthy marriage).
I just wanted to thank you for your post and it helps me to not feel quite so alone in this. My heart goes out to myself and everyone else experiencing TMS.
Coffeeplease – sending a hug your way, especially at 4 a.m.! Whatever pain wakes me up at that time, it's been helping to do some deep breathing and remind myself that it's just my tricky TMS brain trying to distract me!
Thank you so much for the hug! Much needed today and I will keep reminding myself that this is all TMS and learning to deal with the emotions in the best way I can.
May I add my hug? You are certainly not alone in this search from some peace. Yes, it’s TMS and it’s not structural but yet we suffer. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one in the world going through this pain and the anxiety around it..so then I come to this site and get some sense of community.
Thank you so much for your very informative post. It helps so much to hear from others on this site, getting feedback is helpful in not feeling so alone in this TMS business.
Thank you so much Cheryl, I appreciate it more than you know! And sending one back to you....this site and the community support helps so much.
Sending you a big hug and that you are not alone in your hurts, and anxieties! It would be natural to miss your husband even if the marriage was unhealthy. Hope you give yourself lots of compassion and just remember it is TMS!
Thank you @keenie82, and I will remember that...and being grateful for what I do have. I have to remind myself that feeling this crazy mixed bag of emotions is a good thing, and trying not to hide or bury them. Wishing you peace and healing and hugs back to you!
It is tough, but that is what keeps me going with my TMS symptoms. Shifting from worrying about my own stuff, to gratitude often helps me. Sending you peace, healing and hugs right back. Not saying it isn't tough, as I have had a tough year myself, but there is always something to be grateful for.
Found this really fascinating video (about 5 minutes long) that speaks to some of these questions I’ve had about EMDR. The first guy interviewed had back pain for 40 years, which he says is triggered by his emotions. The article doesn’t discuss how (or if) he worked through the emotional stuff. BUT, it does explain how he used EMDR for the pain as a trauma in itself. It says he immerses himself in a memory about the pain (how it overwhelmed him in a public place) and tries to separate the sensation of pain from the emotional experience.
I think that it’s really interesting that this process sounds like it supports TMS work:
1) You recognize that the pain is caused by how you repress emotions.
2) You’re facing the pain head-on by focusing on it. (You allow the pain to be there. You accept that the pain is here now.)
Unfortunately, the video doesn’t say if he’s pain-free. However, he’s able to get rid of all his meds, which is awesome.
I’ve had 7 sessions of EMDR so far where I’ve been working on childhood trauma. I’m hoping to use EMDR like this too, and I’ll update this thread if I have any news.
Here is the video:
https://www.dw.com/en/trauma-therapy-to-reduce-pain/av-38102201 (Trauma therapy to reduce pain | DW | 19.01.2018)
Wonderful! Thank you, please keep us updated.
Hi, all -- It’s been a while, but I wanted to post an update on my experiences with EMDR. I’m currently still seeing my therapist and have made much progress with processing various traumas throughout my life.
My therapist (she’s not a TMS therapist but understands psychogenic pain) gave me a workbook on parts works therapy called "Parts Work: An Illustrated Guide to Your Inner Life" (Tom Holmes). It’s really a topic for another thread, but it goes right along with everything I’ve learned here about TMS. It’s not a book about chronic pain, but I’m using it that way. The nice thing about this book is that it has these silly cartoons for various parts (your inner critic, manager, nurturer, child, etc.). This helped me in visualizing these parts and asking them to take a break so that I could listen to this part of me that’s in pain. Last week, I used parts work and EMDR specifically for focusing/accepting/listening to the pain. The end goal was really no different than anything here -- it mainly allowed me to listen to the pain, really feel it and not push it away in fear or frustration. I just felt like it approached the same goal for me but from a different perspective. I went into the session with a muscle spasm in my back about the size of a Frisbee. While holding the EMDR pads (little vibrating pads for each hand), I did this work and experienced the spasm go down to the size of a tennis ball by the end of the session. It took me about 40 minutes to do that, but it was truly a big step for me.
Back at home, I haven’t been able to reproduce this. However, I keep playing it over in mind. My goal in that session was to truly feel the pain and allow it to be without trying to get rid of it. At home, I think I’m still too focused on using this technique to try to get rid of it so that I can go about my day. And that’s fighting it, which is where I’ve been stuck for so long. But I left that session feeling really empowered and hopeful, having experienced a glimpse of how recovery from TMS works.
Glad to hear that you are making progress! Thank you for providing your update. My EMDR experience was interesting because here I thought my biggest fear was my Bladder, but it was actually fear of my husband leaving me or abandoning me. That was a deep rooted fear that I didn't even know I had stuffed under the layers.
keenie82, that is incredible -- and really amazing to me since this is what I've been working on too. I've been going through all the childhood stuff of fear of abandonment, and I've known that this is a fear I have with my husband too. I also worry a lot about not being able to have a full-time job and how much I put on his shoulders based on how little I can do around the house. What have you done with this fear? Fully allowing yourself to feel it? Or was it simply recognizing this that was enough for you?
Well with this FEAR, I have just been living with it and realizing 'false events appearing real'
I just take each day, one day at a time and try to stay positive. I am fortunate that I can still work and I still am able to contribute a lot to the day to day activities in our household. I can understand your fear about that, but if your husband is not complaining, then perhaps that is a worry that you can let go.
The constant worry, keeps you in tension, which keeps the symptoms continuous.
Did your EMDR therapist talk about how you can pulse your feet back and forth or use your hands on your thighs to recreate that kind of EMDR sensation?
Yes, I have learned that in EMDR! It really helps in between sessions. I've been doing it a bit right now since I'm having a severe back spasm the past few days that came on when I decided to tackle a cluttered part of my house that's been bothering me for a long time. (And no, my husband doesn't complain about that aspect of house stuff!) But he does have money concerns since I'm not regularly earning right now. I'm a freelance editor, so my work is often sporadic within a competitive field. And you're right -- my constant worry about that keeps the symptoms continuous.
Sorry you have a big spasm in your back. I have my urinary symptoms going on where I feel like I have to pee all the time due to stress anxiety. This was brought on my a camping trip, and my husband going out of town this weekend. Plus a lot of my own shame like again, you are flaring... don’t you remember late April when this happened. Last time lasted for about 2 weeks.
And of course I am freaking out, giving myself anxiety and thinking it won’t pass even though it ALWAYS does. When I have my inevitable good day I am going to try to burn that into my brain!
Sorry for your symptoms too, keenie82! I completely agree with you on the time of year being a trigger too (spring was when my daughter was born 12 years ago and the pain started; last really bad spasm I had like this was 2 years ago in June). For anxiety over the symptoms, the combined parts work while holding the EMDR pads I mentioned above has really helped me with the "everyday"/usual pain. I just haven't been able to harness that from the sessions into this recent spasm.
I was finding though that, with EMDR, I was having more and more good days -- the pain was still there, but I had so much less fear of it and could push through my day. This spasm really hit me out of nowhere this time though. I'm having a lot of trouble connecting the psychological, even though I know it's the time of year when it has happened before.
Keeping focused on those inevitable good days is a great thing to do!
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