EMDR Pain Research Review

EMDR in the treatment of PAIN

 Research review

This is a research summary regarding EMDR in the treatment of various types of pain conditions.

Chemali & Meadows (2004) The use of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing in the treatment of psychogenic seizures. Epilepsy Behav. Oct 595). P784-7.

N = 1

Presenting complaint; psychogenic seizures

Symptoms completely resolved after 18 months of weekly sessions (72 sessions)

de Roos CJAM, Veenstra, AC, den Holllander-Gijsman, ME, van der Wee, NJA, de Jongh, A, Zitman, FG, van Rood, RY. (2006). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) for Chronic Phantom Limb Pain (PLP): A preliminary study of 10 cases. Pain.

N = 10 phantom limb pain sufferers

Mean number of sessions = 6

8 patients improved and four patients were considered pain free at follow-up [3 months]

Grant, M. & Threlfo, C. (2002). EMDR in the treatment of chronic pain.

Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(12), 1505-1520.

N = 3 chronic pain sufferers

All reported significantly decreased pain and depression

One reported a dramatic reduction

Hassard (1993) Investigation of Eye Movement Desensitization and reprocessing in Pain Clinic patients. Behavioral and Cognitive Psychotherapy Journal.

N = 27 chronic pain sufferers

19 completed treatment

12 experienced significant reduction in pain

Hekmat, H. Groth, S. & Rogers, D. (1994) Pain ameliorating effects of eye movement desensitization. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 25, 121-130.


Mazzola, Alexandra, Calcagno, Marea, Lujon, Goicochea, et al., (2009) EMDR in the treatment of Chronic Pain. (2009)  Journal of EMDR Practice and Research.

N; 30 subjects

3 conditions: EMDR, EMDR with music and no-treatment group

Pain tolerance was significantly improved for the two eye-movement groups

Harvard Hypnotic Sueptibility Scale (Hypnotizability = not relevant)

McCann, D.L. (1992) Posttraumatic stress disorder due to devastating burns overcome by a single session of eye-movement desensitization. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 23, 319-323.

N= 1

Fireman with burns pain and PTSD

Pain and PTSD resolved after 2 sessions

Schneider, Jens, Hofman, Arne, Rost, Christine, Shapiro, Francine. (2008). EMDR in the Treatment of Chronic Phantom Limb Pain. Pain Medicine

N = 5 (phantom limb pain patients)

Significant decrease or elimination of pain, depression and PTSD symptoms

Decreased feelings of loss, grief, self-image and social adjustment problems

Also decreased medication usage

Silver, Steve, Rogers, S, Russell, M. (2008) Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing in the treatment of war veterans. J. Clin. Psychology Aug. 64(8):947-57

N = 2 (combat veterans)

Reduced anxiety, depression, anger and physical pain

Wilensky (2006) Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) as a treatment for phantom limb pain. Journal of Brief Therapy, 5, 31–44.

N = 5

Phantom Limb pain

Between 3 and 9 sessions of EMDR

All reported significantly reduced pain and increased self-efficacy

1 subject dropped out after pain reduced by 50%

Wilson S.A., Tinker, R., Becker, L.A., Hofman, A. & Cole, J (2000 September). EMDR treatment of phantom limb pain with brain imaging (MEG). Paper presented at the annual meeting of the EMDR Association, Toronto, Canada.

N = 7 (amputees)

Most reported pain disappeared after three sessions

For a more in-depth review see also;