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Measuring Physiological Markers of Emotional Trauma: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study of Mind-Body Therapies

Dawson Church, PhD.

Paper presented at tenth annual ACEP (Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology) conference, May 2008.

Abstract

The effect of emotional trauma on physiological functioning has been documented in a number of studies. Unresolved trauma, even 50 years subsequent to traumatization, has been correlated with higher rates of bone fractures, cancer, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and other ailments. The current study examines the reverse correlation, to determine whether the treatment of emotional trauma has an effect on physiological function. It examined the range of motion (ROM) of the shoulders of subjects with clinically verified joint impairments, which typically take months or years to resolve, in five different planes of arm movement. Psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression were measured using a 45 question self-assessment, the SA-45. Pain was measured on a 10 point Likert-type scale. Subjects received a single 30 minute intervention after being randomized into either an Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) group (16 subjects) or a Diaphragmatic Breathing (DB) group (18 subjects). Thirteen subjects served as a no treatment baseline control group. Subjects demonstrated improvement in psychological symptoms and ROM in both the DB and EFT groups. Results for pain were better in the EFT group, and further improved on 30 day post-test. ROM for both groups continued to improve post-test, but were greater for the EFT group. This exploratory study found that to achieve statistical significance, an N of 40-60 in each group is required.

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