For citation purposes: Grant MD. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing treatment of chronic pain. OA Musculoskeletal Medicine 2014 Aug 17;2(2):17.

Research study


Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing treatment of chronic pain.

M Grant

Authors affiliations

(1) Private Practice, Melbourne, Australia

* Corresponding author Email:



Following its acceptance as an empirically validated treatment for PTSD, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR) has been the subject of a number of reports involving pain, especially pain associated with psychological trauma (eg; phantom limb pain). This study investigated the effectiveness of EMDR therapy in the treatment of chronic pain of heterogenous origin. Based on previous reports, it was hypothesized that EMDR would lead to decreased pain, emotional distress and disability. Pain relief has been an elusive goal for mainstream psychological approaches to pain management.

Materials and methods

Eleven outpatient chronic pain sufferers received an average of 10 sessions of EMDR therapy for pain, with four EMDR-trained psychologists. All patients completed pain questionnaires and mood inventories before treatment, after treatment, and at 6-months follow-up.


At treatment termination, participants reported decreased pain, PTSD symptoms, disability and depression; and increased self-efficacy. This was statistically supported through the use of within-subjects one-way ANOVA’s and paired t-tests. There were also significant linear relationships for all of the tests where ANOVA’s were performed. Use of Cohen’s d statistic indicated that all of the comparisons had large magnitudes of difference. Treatment gains were maintained in four of the seven subjects for whom follow-up data were available.


The results suggest that EMDR may be able to stimulate significant and long-lasting pain relief for chronic pain sufferers, particularly those whose pain is associated with intense emotional distress.

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