Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing in chronic pain conditions


Chronic pain is prevalent and associated with a high disease burden. However, current treatments for chronic pain provide insufficient relief. Therefore, the exploration of new treatment methods is warranted. Originally, Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) developed as a treatment approach for post-traumatic symptoms (e.g. post-traumatic stress disorder), and shows promising results in the treatment of chronic pain conditions. This paper is a critical review of pertinent articles concerned with the feasibility and usefulness of EMDR in the treatment of chronic pain.

Articles on EMDR were retrieved selectively by searching regular literature. This review summarises the findings from EMDR studies conducted for the treatment of chronic pain and also extracts potential theories that may explain the reason why EMDR is a promising treatment for chronic pain conditions. In this review, findings and theories regarding the use of EMDR have been discussed, and the implications for research have been derived.

Early reports show that EMDR either significantly reduces the intensity of pain or completely eliminates chronic pain in various pain conditions, including phantom limb pain, fibromyalgia and migraine. Several underlying mechanisms are discussed, including the Adaptive Information Processing model and neurobiological mechanisms.

The early findings should be interpreted carefully because they are based on reports with methodological limitations. These include the use of small sample sizes, heterogeneous samples and missing control groups that are discussed in this critical review. Moreover, some of the challenging questions remain unexplained, such as the focus of EMDR treatment, its dose-response relationship and its safety. It is observed that not all patients respond to the EMDR treatment, which makes it difficult to identify appropriate subgroups of chronic pain patients.

There is early evidence that EMDR treatment is successful in reducing chronic pain, but further research is required to account for the limitations of the findings observed in this critical review.






Andreas Gerhardt
Wolfgang Eich
Günter Seidler
Jonas Tesarz

Original Work Citation

Gerhardt, A., Eich, W., Seidler, G., & Tesarz, J. (2013, March), Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing in chronic pain conditions. OA Musculoskeletal Medicine, 1(1), 7



“Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing in chronic pain conditions,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed July 29, 2021, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/26827.

Output Formats