Working with the Emotional Aspects of Physical Pain
By Craig Weiner, DC
In last mont's issue of DC Practice Insights, we looked at EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques or Tapping) and how they can be incorporated into your chiropractic practice. I offered some background both on the technique itself and the importance of understanding how impactful stress resulting from negative emotions can be when working with a patient to resolve pain and heal their bodies. I also summarized the most commonly used meridian end points, or acupoints, that are stimulated when doing this tapping procedure. Now, I want to explore ways in which the emotional aspects of pain can be exposed and explored to reduce a patient's physical symptoms using EFT.
First, it is important that I mention that to most effectively use this technique, proper training should be attained. A beginning level of competency can be achieved within a two-day training. Learning a variety of techniques to use with patients offers an array of tools to use depending on the patient and issue being addressed.
That being said, a healthy rapport should already be established with a patient to allow for a "bridge discussion" that exhibits an understanding that the patient accepts the mind-body connection as a valid one so there is a solid degree of acceptance that ways in which they think and feel cause stressful states that can affect the functioning of their body.
Once that connection is established, teaching them a self-help technique can be offered. When I teach a patient how to self-apply EFT for their physical pain, I always begin with the basic approach of the Chasing the Pain technique I discussed in last month's article. When demonstrated and performed in office, within five minutes, most patients will experience some relief of their symptoms. I usually have them perform this at home daily for 5 to 10 minutes until their next visit and I allow an extra 5 to 10 minutes for further instruction. It is on this visit that I explain that working only on the physical symptoms is somewhat akin to first aid or a Band-Aid. Underlying or coinciding with the pain or symptoms they are experiencing, there are commonly negative emotions that are complicating their recovery. I explain that by working on those perpetuating factors, they are more likely to get better results.
Real World Example
Diana is an electrician who I worked with on various complaints for the past four years. She had developed right anterior shoulder pain that I treated with adjustments, trigger point work, ice/heat and exercises for three weeks, but her condition only improved about 50%. After adjusting her thoracic spine and shoulder, I asked her if she would be open to a slightly different approach to complement the work we were doing that she could do herself at home. I had already suspected she would be open to it based upon previous conversations we had about the nature of healing.
I asked her, besides the physical pain, "how does the shoulder pain make you feel?" She reported that it made her feel very frustrated because it's not getting better fast enough and that usually she heals very quickly. Before beginning the tapping, I obtain several pieces of information. First, I asked the specific location, quality and intensity of her pain so she could track how by effectively reducing her frustration we are able to reduce her physical pain. She reported that it was the front of her right shoulder, sharp and rated it a 6 out of 10 on a VAS scale. Then, I inquired regarding the emotion associated with the pain, which in this case was a feeling of frustration. I asked her what level of frustration intensity she was feeling in the present and her response was a 7 out of 10. At that point, I showed her the points we were about to tap on and instructed her to follow along with me and repeat my words aloud. (See below chart/diagram of Tapping Points)
I began the first tapping round by verbalizing for her the following "Set-Up Phrase," while simultaneously demonstrating for her to gently tap on her "Karate Chop" point:
Next, she was instructed to tap on each of the next eight acupoints, in the order described above beginning with the Top of Head Point, approximately 7 to 8 times at each point while saying a "Reminder Phrase." The Reminder Phrase, for simplicity sake, is kept to a shortened version of the Set-Up Phrase, as in "this frustration."
After the round, the she was asked for a new 0 to 10 level of frustration intensity. She said the frustration felt definitely less and was now more like a three. Then I asked her how her shoulder pain level was doing and she was surprised that it had dropped from a six to a two.
I then asked her to begin identifying all the specific things about her shoulder pain that made her feel frustrated, as they would prompt her homework she would be doing between visits. I offered her some example questions and scenarios for her to explore like, when do you feel the most frustrated by your shoulder pain? Is it at work, at home while playing with your kids, while working in the garden? Based on her response, I helped her create the following set-up phrases to start with: "Even though I feel so frustrated when it hurts to lift up my daughter to give her a hug when I get home from work, I deeply and completely accept myself." And, "Even though I feel all this frustration when I get the sharp pain in my shoulder when I begin to pull wire at work, I deeply and completely accept myself."
Diana returned the next week smiling when I saw her sitting on my adjusting table. She reported that her shoulder pain was now just an occasional dull ache, only a one or two out of 10. She told me that she had tapped every day, in fact twice a day, as she noticed how much relief it was offering her and that her husband had remarked how much less annoyed and stressed out she was the past week. She said she realized just how much the frustration of not getting better as quickly as she had expected had been making her so stressed that she now knew she had been aggravating her condition even further.
The stress patients feel about their condition, whether it be the frustration of not healing quickly enough, or feelings associated with the cause of their condition, i.e. resentment at the other driver that struck their car; all of these sources of stress and many others can have potent influences on the rate of healing that patients experience as we work with them.
Craig Weiner, DC, has been a practicing chiropractor since graduating from Life Chiropractic College West in 1991. He is the director of The Chiropractic Zone on Whidbey Island in Langley, Wash. He is the host of the Change your Mind! Transformational Dialogue Radio program and teaches Right Brain Aerobics and EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) in partnership with his wife Alina Frank. For more information, visit www.chirozone.net or send an e-mail to