Pain, range of motion, and psychological symptoms in a population with frozen shoulder: A randomized controlled dismantling study of Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques)

Citation (APA Style): Church, D., & Nelms, J. (2016). Pain, range of motion, and psychological symptoms in a population with frozen shoulder: A randomized controlled dismantling study of Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques). Archives of Scientific Psychology, 4(1), 38-48. doi:10.1037/arc0000028

Dawson Church, National Institute for Integrative Healthcare
Jerrod Nelms, Western Kentucky University 


Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) combines acupoint stimulation with elements of cognitive and exposure therapy. Numerous studies have demonstrated the efficacy of EFT for depression, anxiety, phobias, PTSD, and other psychological conditions. The current study assesses whether acupoint stimulation is an active ingredient or whether treatment effects are due to non-specific factors. Thirty-seven participants with “frozen shoulder” consisting of limited range of motion (ROM) and pain were randomized into a wait list, or one of two treatment groups. ROM, pain, and the breadth and depth of psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression were assessed before and after a 30-minute treatment session, and 30 days later. One treatment group received Clinical EFT, while the other received an identical cognitive/exposure protocol but with diaphragmatic breathing (DB) substituted for acupoint stimulation. No significant improvement in any psychological symptom was found in the wait list. Participants in the both the EFT and DB groups demonstrated significant posttest improvement in psychological symptoms and pain. Follow-up showed that both groups maintained their gains for pain, with EFT superior to DB, but only the EFT group maintained gains for psychological symptoms (p < 0.001). Large EFT treatment effects were found, with a Cohen’s d = .9 for anxiety and pain, and d = 1.1 for depression. Though EFT showed a greater trend for improved ROM in most dimensions of movement, changes were non-significant for most measures in all groups. Reductions in psychological distress were associated with reduced pain as well as with improved ROM. The results are consistent with five earlier dismantling studies showing that acupoint stimulation is an active ingredient in EFT treatment. The study adds further support to other clinical trials indicating that Clinical EFT is an efficacious evidence-based treatment for pain and psychological conditions.

Keywords: range of motion, ROM, EFT, Emotional Freedom Techniques, Diaphragmatic Breathing, pain, depression, anxiety

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