Tapping for Pain Relief: Can EFT Tapping Help Reduce Emotional and Physical Pain?
WHAT’S THE ISSUE: I’ve been teaching people how to tap since December 2018. In this article, I will share with you some of what I have learned so far from my experience of tapping with teachers, parents, and students with regards to tapping for pain relief. I will share three practical examples of how EFT tapping (also known as the Emotional Freedom Technique) can help us to:
- alleviate the emotional pain that accompanies unhelpful levels of stress.
- reduce the emotional component of physical pain, in order to alleviate physical pain.
The experiences and stories I’ll be sharing with you here today are for people who want to learn more about tapping for pain relief. If this is you, you’re in the right place!
WHAT IS TAPPING?
Tapping is a gentle emotional self-care tool that I’ve found to be particularly effective in reducing school-related stress in the students I work with, one-to-one. It is a self-soothing type of meditation that you can do independently, or with the help of an EFT Practitioner, by tapping on certain acupressure points on the face and upper body. It is often referred to as EFT, or the Emotional Freedom Technique. It is a type of meditation that combines modern Psychology with ancient Chinese medicine. It is a self-help tool that was developed by Gary Craig and Dr Patricia Carrington. Gary Craig’s background as an engineer helped him think in a ‘how-to’ way. This way of thinking allowed him to create the ‘mechanism’ for the tapping technique to work. Dr Carrington, who was a former Lecturer in the Psychology Department at Princeton University, added her valuable knowledge of Clinical Psychology to the foundation that Gary had created.
Tapping is an evidence-based stress management technique that has a strong scientific evidence-based. Let me give you an example. Thanks to a randomized control trial study (the Gold Standard of scientific research) conduced by Dr Church and his colleagues, we know that our bodies experience a chemical reaction while tapping that brings our cortisol levels down quicker than traditional talk therapy (Nick Ortner, The Tapping Solution: A Revolutionary System for Stress-Free Living, p. 5). Cortisol is one of the stress hormones that is released in our brain. tly explains why tapping can be so powerful for working with students when they are feeling panicky or anxious about school-work, exams or deadlines. We also know that having too many stress hormones stuck in our body for too long is bad for our health, because they cause chronic inflammation when they are stuck in our system for far too long. And it is a well-established fact that chronic stress, and therefore chronic inflammation, can cause chronic pain and serious diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Tapping helps us calm the stress response in our brain by calming the amygdala, which keeps us stuck in fight-or-flight mode. Not only does being stuck in fight-or-flight mode make it difficult for us to think clearly in stressful conditions like tests and exams, but it also prevents the body from moving into a relaxed state. The muscular tension that results from being in a chronic, or acute, state of stress increases aches and pains.
HOW CAN TAPPING HELP WITH PAIN?
For years, many doctors were trained to believe that medicating the body was the only solution for pain relief. Have a headache? Take a pain-killer. Can’t bend over to tie your shoelace from lower back pain? Take a pain-killer. But what I’ve discovered from my work is that there is another (often complementary) way to reduce pain in the body. Experiencing acute pain or chronic pain is commonly a source of stress.
Pain makes it hard for us to function, let alone communicate and go about our daily jobs and errands as we had hoped or planned. The more I worked as a Youth Mentor for Stress Relief, the more I noticed a pattern: a lot of the students I mentored, and their parents, were in physical pain when we started our session. So I started to ask the them if they wanted to try a technique called tapping, to see if it could help. EFT tapping is a self-soothing tool that can help us reduce stress-related pain, by reducing the emotional component of the pain.
I have learned that tapping on the physical manifestations of stress in our body is a great way to access our inner emotional education, because it helps us become more aware of the painful emotion(s) we have been suppressing. These pent-up emotions are often contributing to the pain. This is particularly true when working with boys and men, who have been programmed by society to suppress their emotions. Tapping to help reduce physical pain can help us rediscover our true selves, and what we really want and need – free from social pressures and expectations. We tap into our body intelligence. We tap into our inner wisdom.
We tend to experience more aches and pains in our body, irrespective of age, when we are stuck in a chronic state of stress and overwhelm, or when we are going through a period of acute stress in our lives due to finances, relationships, or other life problems. For some people, the pain can show up in the form of migraines. For others, it can lead to dysmenorrhea (the equivalent of migraines, but for period pain). It can also show up as chronic back pain, jaw pain from involuntary tooth grinding (also known as Bruxism), neck and shoulder pain, and so on. While the location of the pain can vary from person to person, what everyone who’s tried tapping on the pain has discovered is the emotional component of physical pain.
Often people have been given a doctor’s diagnosis and so they know there is a biological component to their pain. So they start the session thinking that tapping is not going to work (“They said it’s biological. They said there’s nothing we can do about it”), but feeling like they have nothing to lose by having a go…and then they are amazed when they see that the pain is significantly reduced, if not completely gone, by the end of the session! While I have seen this happen many times, I’m still in awe every time it happens.
In addition to relief for physical aches and pains, tapping can also help to alleviate feelings of intense emotional pain such as dysregulating anger, panic, and anxiety. Let me give you three examples of cases I have worked with. Pseudonyms will be used to protect people’s privacy in the personal stories that I share here, with you.
CASE #1: TAPPING ON PHYSICAL PAIN
I once worked with a single-parent mum (let’s call her “Sarah”). Her daughter was getting bad grades in most of her subjects, and she’d developed an unhelpful habit of lying about how well she was doing on tests, and about whether she’d done her homework.
During my routine parent check-in session with “Sarah”, it was clear that she wasn’t going to be able to update me on what she had observed regarding her daughter’s most recent behaviors and progress; the mum was in too much pain to talk.
Before we started tapping, “Sarah” felt that the intensity of the pain, which started at her lower back and extending down into her upper left leg, was an 8/10 on a 0-10 scale (0=no pain at all, 10=maximum intensity pain). So she was experiencing severe back pain.
As we started tapping, it soon became clear that she had been suppressing a lot of anger about being lied to for so many years. After only 10 minutes of tapping away the suppressed anger that had been building up, Sarah reported that her back pain had dropped to a 4/10.
After a couple more rounds of tapping where we systematically processed different aspects of the suppressed anger, Sarah’s anger had subsided. I asked her to check back in and see how intense the pain was in her lower back and leg.
Silence on the other end of the phone (we did the tapping through a phone call on Viber). She could not believe it…the pain was gone!
CASE #2: TAPPING ON EMOTIONAL PAIN
“Mario” had been getting bad grades in tests since the start of secondary school. He was failing in almost all his subjects when we started working together. He had problems focusing, and had been diagnosed as having borderline for ADHD. He was in danger of failing his finals, and he had not done very well on his IGCSE mock exams. When we started tapping, “Mario” was feeling very angry towards his teachers, and he had a number of blocking beliefs that were getting in his way of achieving his academic potential in exam conditions.
Before we started tapping, Mario had the following blocking beliefs:
- “I’m going to fail my final exams. I always fail.”
- “I’m no good at academic work.”
- “I’m a bad student.”
When he continued to get bad grades, as the real exams got nearer and nearer, he started to blame his teachers. I asked him to tell me how he felt about his most recent school report before we started to tap. Here is what he said:
- “I’m angry with my teachers, because I feel like they don’t believe in me. I feel like they have given up on me.”
- “I want my teachers to give me an idea for how to improve.”
- “I want my teachers to motivate me.”
Here’s what came up for him, soon after we started to tap on this anger her felt towards his teachers:
- “I realize the issue is that I don’t believe in myself.”
- “I don’t believe I can do it.”
- And he then realized that “the person who should believe in me the most is myself.”
As we continued to tap, he started to feel a newfound sense of determination:
- “I wanna sit and concentrate.”
- “I wanna see how I’m gonna do well.”
By the end of the session, he had an “Aha!” moment, because he had shifted away from hearing the “I can’t do it” voice in his head, whose intensity had initially felt like a 5/10 in intensity, and was now getting close to a 0/10.
In the next mentoring session, we did some more tapping on this old blocking limiting belief (“I can’t do it”) which came up when he thought of his final GCSE exams to clear out any residual self-doubt (Me: “How true does the thought ‘I can’t do it’ feel, when you think about your final GCSE examinations?” Response: “0/10”).
From that point on, Mario started to talk about his final exams in a more responsible, self-aware, and self-empowered way:
- “I can improve my memory.”
- “It’s me who needs to put the effort.”
- “In the last few years, I was saying to myself: ‘I can’t do it’, all the time. But now I feel that I can do it.”
After getting Ds, Es, and Fs in most of his mock exams, Mario passed all his IGCSE final exams. Not only that, but most of his final grades were As and Bs. My heart soared with joy for him, when I heard the good news; for the first time in his life as a secondary school student, he felt proud of himself when he saw his exam results.
CASE #3: TAPPING ON EMOTIONAL PAIN
This summer, I worked with a recent high school graduate, let’s call her “Christina”, who was in the middle of a test-related confidence crisis. Her mother called me to ask if I could help her daughter, who had recently failed to pass a UK university entry Maths exam that she was required to travel to London to take at a designated test centre.
When I called Christina (we did the three one-hour tapping sessions via WhatsApp, as her internet connection wasn’t strong enough for a video call), she was on her own in the UK. Her parents had booked a room for her to stay there for a few days, so that she could go to one of the designated testing centers and sit the exam. Christina and her family were informed that the British Government had introduced a law in 2017 that forced all applicants for teacher training courses to sit two additional tests, which they call the “Numeracy Test” and the “Literacy Test”…on top of the university entry exams (A Levels, IB Diploma exams, European Baccalaureate exams, etc). Christina only had a week to study the past papers, and make her way to a testing center over in the UK.
Fortunately for future teacher training applicants, it looks like the British Government will be scrapping this inhumane quantity of additional testing for future teaching candidates as of April 2020. But for Christina who was applying for entry in the fall of 2019, the current law still applied. Christina had passed her Literacy Test on the first go, but she was stuck on the Maths exams. The mother was worried about her daughter, because she had a big panic attack in the middle of her second attempt to pass the Numeracy Test. Christina was alone in a foreign country, and she was feeling overwhelmed by the time pressure and the whole situation. She had to pass this Maths test with a score of 80% or more, and she was overwhelmed with stress. She only had two more days left to prepare for her third (and final) re-take of the Numeracy Test.
Needless to say, by the time I spoke with Christina, she was in great distress. She had never had a panic attack before, and she was still (understandably) shaken from the big panic attack she had the day before. When she thought of her final exam retake, she felt that the feeling of overwhelm were a 10/10.
Before we started the tapping session, Christina believed it was impossible for her to pass the exam with so little time. She believed she needed a year to study for the test, in order to pass. Failing the last two attempts had totally shattered her confidence. When she thought back to that second exam, she remembered how stressed the other students in the test center were. She was shocked by what she saw. The memory of other students’ stress responses was making her feel even more distressed at the thought of going back to the test center.
The more we tapped, the more she released her pent-up fears of failure and her frustrations with the system and the time pressure…the more her feelings transformed from feelings of stress and overwhelm, to feelings of hope and confidence. By the time we finished tapping, she’d gone from telling me that she felt she needed a year to prepare for this Maths exam and that it was impossible to make it with only two days to prepare…to telling me that she felt confident that she could do it. She was able to think clearly again and she independently came up with a practical five-point plan for how she could improve her study strategy (without me prompting her to do so).
Two days later, my phone rings while I’m enjoying the view and the conversation with an inspiring conference participant, as we sat on top of a double-decker bus in Budapest. The 2019 Student Well-being ENSEC Conference was coming to an end, and the conference organizers had offered us a lovely complimentary guided tour sightseeing experience. So there we were, happily on our way to see the incredible Buda Castle. And Christina was calling me from the UK.
“Hi, is this a good time to talk? Eleni, I passed!!”
For my fellow teacher colleagues out there, I’m sure you can relate to the joy that comes from seeing your student(s) overcome a challenge, thanks to their independent honest effort and willingness to get out of their comfort zone to try something new.
IN A NUTSHELL
In this article, you saw how tapping (EFT) can help…
- Parents suffering from stress-related physical aches and pains release the emotional component of the pain from their bodies.
- Students with a history of getting bad grades to boost their confidence so they can try to turn things around.
- Students who are suffering from test and exam-related stress, anxiety and panic attacks.
WHERE Do we go FROM HERE?
If you would like to learn more about…
- How EFT Tapping works in action [10-minute video demonstration]
- “The History of EFT” [Downloadable PDF]
- “EFT Research” [Overview article]
- How teachers and university lecturers are bringing tapping into the classroom, click here:
- “Wellness and Awareness in Elementary Classrooms”, with Bonnie Greene.
- “How Tapping is Being Applied in Mainstream Education” [Downloadable PDF]
- How I can support you through a particular stress-related problem.
EFT TAPPING BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS
Below, you will find my top book recommendation if you want to read more about tapping and Energy Psychology.
- Dr Bruce Lipton (2004) The Biology of Belief.
- Dr Gabor Mate (2011) When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection.
- Jessica Ortner (2018) A Guide to Get Unstuck and Find Your Flow.
- Nick Ortner (2012) The Tapping Solution for Pain Relief: A Step-By-Step Guide to Reducing and Eliminating Chronic Pain.
- Nick Ortner (2014) The Tapping Solution for Stress-Free Living.
- Nick Ortner (2018) The Tapping Solution for Parents, Children & Teenagers: How to Let Go of Excessive Stress, Anxiety and Worry, and Raise Happy, Healthy, Resilient Families.
- Dr Patricia Carrington (2009) Discover the Power of Meridian Tapping: A Revolutionary Method for Stress Free Living.
- Dr Peta Stapleton (2019) The Science Behind Tapping: A Proven Stress Management Technique for the Mind and Body.