Chronic pain is an invisible, but debilitating problem that has recently gained more attention due to an epidemic of opioid abuse and new high-tech treatments such as implants. What the media still ignores, however, is the fact that there are natural alternatives which bypass the need for toxic drugs or essentially becoming a cyborg. One of these is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), a much-researched (but still classed as "experimental") therapy combining tapping on a series of acupressure points with re-affirming the issue as a safe form of exposure and self-acceptance. This can help to shift negative subconscious pathways.
The Evidence for EFT in Helping Chronic Pain
Besides mental and emotional issues such as cravings or anxiety, EFT has been found to help with physical symptoms such as chronic pain. In one study of 59 veterans with PTSD, relief of chronic pain appeared as a beneficial "side effect". Everyone received six EFT sessions alongside standard care, and were assessed with the SA-45 scale. Not only did levels of anxiety, depression and other psychological symptoms reduce significantly, but their pain levels fell by 41% over the treatment period. At the six-month follow-up, pain still stayed at much lower levels than it was before the EFT sessions.
EFT may also be effective in cases of fibromyalgia, a debilitating condition that features chronic pain. A trial involving 86 women with fibromyalgia found that self-administered EFT produced improvements in areas such as pain, depression, anxiety, vitality and performance at work or other activities, compared to the waiting list group. Unfortunately, only 62 women completed the study, partly reflecting the nature of fibromyalgia. The high dropout rates may also demonstrate the reason why EFT is best practiced with a trained professional as well as self-treatment (alone, or preferably with a buddy). Practicing EFT with someone else can be comforting, activate mirror neurons for a stronger effect, and provide motivation and accountability.
Another study involved 50 adults with general chronic pain, and had them participate in a three-day EFT training workshop. Pain was measured by both the Pain Catastrophising Index (PCI) and Multidimensional Pain Index (MPI) just before and after treatment, as well as at one-month and six-month follow-ups. Their total PCI scores dropped by 43%, and MPI scores significantly improved in five areas, including pain severity. After six months, however, only the improvements in PCI scores remained, and "life control" was the only area on the MPI where benefits kept around. This may demonstrate that a holistic treatment plan, such as with a naturopath, is best.
Neuroplasticity, EFT and Pain
The duration of treatment, if pain is caused by inappropriate neural pathways in some way, may be a strong predictor of whether or not EFT will produce long-term benefits. In research on neuroplasticity (the brain's ability to remodel and even repair itself), blind volunteers learning Braille showed only temporary changes to their brains' pathways until about six months. After this time period, they began to maintain the "maps" in their brains that let them know what Braille "looks" like, which grew until ten months when they had finished learning to read. Before the six-month mark, they lost the new pathways, the new maps, in only three days. This may mean that, if chronic pain is caused by a neural pathway affecting sensation, or inflammation which results in pain, it could take several months to alter the pathways to healthier pattern. It takes time, but healing yourself is all worth it!