Unlocking the Healing Power of EMDR: How Eye Movement Therapy Helps Relieve Chronic Pain and Illness
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a form of psychotherapy that has been used to treat various psychological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. However, recent research has shown that EMDR can also be effective in treating chronic pain and illness.
Chronic pain and illness can be caused by various factors, including physical trauma, emotional stress, and psychological trauma. The treatment of chronic pain and illness has traditionally focused on the physical aspects of the condition. However, recent research has shown that the emotional and psychological factors associated with chronic pain and illness are equally important.
One of the main theories behind the effectiveness of EMDR in treating chronic pain and illness is the polyvagal theory. The polyvagal theory suggests that the autonomic nervous system is involved in emotional regulation, and that disruptions in the autonomic nervous system can lead to various emotional and psychological problems, including chronic pain and illness.
The somatic experiencing approach, which is a form of trauma therapy that focuses on interoception and proprioception, can also be used in conjunction with EMDR to treat chronic pain and illness. Somatic experiencing involves focusing on the body's sensations and movements to release emotional and physical tension.
According to research by Schneider, Hofmann, Rost, and Shapiro (2008), EMDR can also be effective in treating chronic phantom limb pain. Phantom limb pain is a condition where patients experience pain in a limb that has been amputated.
Stickgold (2002) suggests that EMDR works by facilitating the integration of traumatic memories into existing memory networks. This integration can reduce the emotional and physical responses associated with the traumatic event, thereby reducing the symptoms of chronic pain and illness.
Teicher, Samson, Anderson, and Ohashi (2016) suggest that childhood abuse and neglect can have long-term neurobiological effects, including an increased risk of chronic pain and illness. This research highlights the importance of addressing emotional and psychological trauma in the treatment of chronic pain and illness.
Recent research by van den Hurk et al. (2022) suggests that childhood trauma exposure increases the risk of developing long COVID, further highlighting the importance of addressing emotional and psychological trauma in the treatment of chronic illness.
In conclusion, the use of EMDR in the treatment of chronic pain and illness is a promising approach that addresses the emotional and psychological factors associated with these conditions. The integration of other approaches, such as somatic experiencing, can also enhance the effectiveness of EMDR. Further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms underlying the effectiveness of EMDR in the treatment of chronic pain and illness, but the available evidence suggests that EMDR has the potential to significantly improve the quality of life of those suffering from these conditions.
McGilchrist, I. (2009). The master and his emissary. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.
Payne, P., Levine, P. A., & Crane-Godreau, M. A. (2015). Somatic experiencing: using interoception and proprioception as core elements of trauma therapy. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 93.
Porges, S. (2011). The polyvagal theory: Neurobiological foundation of emotions, attachment, communication, and self-regulation. New York: Norton.
Price, C. J., & Weng, H. Y. (2021). Facilitating Adaptive Emotion Processing and Somatic Reappraisal via Sustained Mindful Interoceptive Attention. Frontiers in Psychology, 3543.
Scaer, R. (2014). The body bears the burden (3rd ed.). New York: Routledge.
Schneider, J., Hofmann, A., Rost, C., & Shapiro, F. (2008). EMDR in the treatment of chronic phantom limb pain. American Academy of Pain Medicine, 9(1), 76–82.
Siegel, D. (1999). The developing mind: How relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are. New York: Guilford.
Siegel, D. J. (2001). Memory: An overview, with emphasis on developmental, interpersonal, and neurobiological aspects. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 40(9), 997–1011.
Siegel, D. J., & Bryson, T. P. (2021). The power of showing up: How parental presence shapes who our kids become and how their brains get wired. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.
Stickgold, R. (2002). EMDR: A putative neurobiological mechanism of action. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(1), 61–75.
Teicher, M. H., Samson, J. A., Anderson, C., Ohashi, K. (2016) Annual research review: enduring neurobiological effects of childhood abuse and neglect. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 57(3), 241-266.
van der Kolk, B. (2015). The body keeps the score: brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. New York, NY: Viking Press.
van den Hurk, A. W. V., Ujvari, C., Greenspan, N., Malaspina, D., Jimenez, X. F., & Walsh-Messinger, J. (2022). Childhood Trauma Exposure Increases Long COVID Risk. medRxiv.
Vachon-Presseau, E., Roy, M., Martel, M., Caron, E., Marin, M., Chen, J., et al. (2013). The stress model of chronic pain: Evidence from basal cortisol and hippocampal structure and function in humans. Brain, 136(3), 815–827.
Verger, A., Rousseau, P. F., Malbos, E., Chawki, M. B., Nicolas, F., Lançon, C., & Guedj, E. (2020). Involvement of the cerebellum in EMDR efficiency: A metabolic connectivity PET study in PTSD. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 11(1), 1767986.
World Health Organization (1948). Constitution of the World Health Organization. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.