Chronic pain and post-traumatic stress may have similar origins

Chronic pain that has no physical signs or is resistant to treatment by conventional medicine may have its origins in traumatizing events. A person who experiences rage or fear without being able to fight or flee resumes to freeze and goes on to tonic immobility dominated by responses initiated by the dorsal vagus complex. Simultaneously there is an increase in noradrenaline, released by the locus ceruleus, that enhances the memory consolidation processeses facilitated by the amygdala.

Read more about how pain often is part of memories of traumatic events, and how bottom-up therapy can help release pain.

The pain that is either experienced at the time of the traumatizing event or is the result of the remembered hopelessness and helplessness created by not being able to escape will be consolidated in different types of memories. Together they may constitute a trauma capsule or memory capsule. This event memory capsule may contain somatosensory, emotional and autonomic nervous system responses. They may also be co-consolidated with declarative memories and thoughts. Together they may constitute emotional implicit learnings.

Although this is but part of the psychoneurophysiological background of chronic pain that may be resistant to conventional treatment it still provides a thought provoking and testable hypothesis. Effective trauma treatment of the reactivated sub-conscious procedural and emotional memories when performed in a manner that favours the mismatch needed for re-consolidation of the memories may result in simultaneous resolution of the pain as well as the psychological trauma.

Chronic pain in the form of migraine headaches, low back pain, upper back pain, neck pain, fibromyalgia, whiplash, phantom limb pain may be subjected to intervention by effective somatically based therapies so called ’bottom-up’ therapies.

The origin of post-traumatic stress reactions has a similar background and interventions that are effective for PTSD, like tapping of acupoints (EFT, TFT, TTT, SET etc.) or bilateral tapping (EMDR), eye movement or position integration (EMPI, EMDR, Brainspotting), and by using the body´s innate capacity for self-regulation and somatic discharge (Somatic Experiencing, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Hakomi) or Mindful Tapping.

Mindful Tapping draws upon the inherent physiological principles of the above techniques and uses combinations of what may be seen as their essential ingredients in a seamless flow that when performed during mindful observation i.e. introspection of emotions and somatics and, when applicable, episodic memories, will activate our innate capacity to heal and may therefore be effective for chronic pain of non-physical origin, too.

Case stories and clinical experience support this conclusion.


Scaer, R. (2014). The Body Bears the Burden. Routledge

Sarno, J. E. (1984). Mind over Back Pain. New York: William Morrow.

James L. McGaugh (2000). Memory–a Century of Consolidation. Science 287, 248-251

Ronald Ruden. (2008) Encoding States: A Model for the Origin and Treatment of Complex Psychogenic Pain. Traumatology 2008; 14; 119-126

Energy Therapy Acupoint Tapping: The Best PTSD Treatment? Psychology Today ; Susanne Heitler Oct 13, 2011