For citation purposes: Tesarz J, Janke S, Leisner S, Seidler GH, Eich W, Gerhardt A. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing in non-specific chronic back pain: A case series. OA Musculoskeletal Medicine 2014 Nov 20;2(2):20.

Case Series


Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing in non-specific chronic back pain: A case series.

J Tesarz, S Janke, S Leisner, G Seidler , W Eich, A Gerhardt

Authors affiliations

(1) Department of General Internal Medicine and Psychosomatics, Medical Hospital, University of Heidelberg, Germany

* Corresponding author Email:



Non-specific chronic back pain (nsCBP) is common and of high socioeconomic relevance. In the context of chronification, psychosocial factors (e.g. depression, anxiety and psychological traumatic events) are known risk factors. Therefore psychotherapeutic interventions are recommended. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an empirically validated psychotherapeutic intervention for mental disorders associated with exposure to psychological traumatic events. The objective of this case series was to develop and evaluate the usability of a pain-focused EMDR-treatment manual for nsCBP patients with experienced psychological traumatic events.

Materials and methods

This explorative case series was conducted as a pretest-posttest design. A treatment manual based on the EMDR standard procedure was developed and adapted for the specific needs of nsCBP patients. Six consecutively recruited nsCBP patients with exposure to psychological traumatic events received a standardized ten-session EMDR treatment. Outcome measures were pain intensity (numeric rating scale), interference with daily life (West Haven-Yale Multidimensional Pain Inventory) and the treatment satisfaction from the patients' perspective (Patient Global Impression of Change Scale). Assessments took place before the beginning and two weeks after completion of the intervention.


Four patients (67%) reported a clinically important reduction in pain intensity ranging from 50-75% and relevant improvements in their global impression of change with treatment. In two patients (33%), the pain intensity remained almost unchanged. All patients reported a decrease in pain-related life interference after treatment that was clinically relevant in four patients (67%). No severe adverse events were reported.


EMDR seems to be a safe and promising treatment for nsCBP. Further studies are necessary to replicate the results in methodological more stringent research and to identify appropriate subgroups of patients that are prone to EMDR treatment.

Licensee OA Publishing London 2014. Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY)