Brief PTSD therapy strongly reduces symptoms of chronic pain, study reports

June 19, 2014 by Vjollca Hysenlika
Diego F. Hernandez, PsyD (left), a licensed clinical psychologist and clinical director of ART at USF College of Nursing, demonstrates Accelerated Resolution Therapy, as veteran Brian Anderson follows his hand movements.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a growing epidemic among veterans and military service members returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Along with PTSD, a large percentage of veterans also experience chronic pain affecting the nervous system, internal organs and musculoskeletal tissues. These physical symptoms can be debilitating, and so far no formal treatment guidelines exist.

However, a recent University of South Florida College of Nursing study reports that accelerated resolution therapy (ART)—a brief, safe and effective treatment for PTSD – strongly reduces chronic pain. The researchers found that ART, a combination of evidence-based psychotherapies and use of eye movements, substantially reduces accompanying pain including neuropathic symptoms and head pain. The findings appear online in the May issue of the European Journal of Psycho-traumatology.

Kevin Kip, PhD, FAHA, professor and executive director for the USF College of Nursing Research Center, led a team of investigators and clinicians who conducted a randomized control trial of ART in a military population. The trial enrolled 57 service members and veterans from the Tampa Bay area.

The researchers compared ART to a non-therapeutic PTSD treatment called attention control (AC) regimen. Clinicians treated half of the participants with ART, and the other half received AC, which consisted of either physical fitness assessment and planning, or career assessment and planning. After initial treatment, both groups received a follow-up assessment at three months.

According to information cited in the study, 70 percent of veterans with chronic pain in the U.S. Veterans Administration system may have PTSD, and up to 80 percent of those with PTSD may also experience chronic pain. Previous studies indicate that individuals suffering from report a much lower quality of life and that constant pain may also worsen PTSD symptoms.

"With this study, we set out to describe and quantify the types of pain frequently experienced by service members and veterans with symptoms of PTSD," Dr. Kip said. "However, we were rather surprised as to how substantially levels of pain were reduced with ART, which was being used principally to treat symptoms of PTSD."

ART works in two phases to alleviate PTSD symptoms and psychological conditions including depression and anxiety.

The patient first visualizes in his or her mind a prior traumatic experience, which typically elicits uncomfortable physiological sensations like tightness of the chest, increased heart rate and sweating. Then, the patient follows the clinician's hand back and forth in a series of rapid left-to-right eye movements.

In the second phase, the patient imagines in their mind a positive solution to "replace" the distressing images with positive ones in a way that the original distressing images can no longer be accessed. ART is delivered in one to five one-hour sessions, requires no homework, and no written or verbal recall of the traumatic experience.

The USF College of Nursing recently began its fourth and largest ART study. Researchers are currently recruiting 200 and service members suffering from PTSD, including those who were sexually abused or previously treated with other PTSD therapies. They will also examiune the cost-effectiveness of ART, and further investigate how and why the therapy works.

Explore further: New brief therapy eases symptoms of combat-related psychological trauma

Related Stories

New brief therapy eases symptoms of combat-related psychological trauma

December 9, 2013
Accelerated Resolution Therapy, or ART, is a brief, safe, and effective treatment for combat-related symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among veterans and U.S. service members, researchers at University of ...

Veterans with traumatic brain injuries and combat-related challenges

February 3, 2014
Virginia Commonwealth University researchers have found that among traumatic brain injury-diagnosed veterans treated by the Veterans Health Administration between 2009 and 2011, the majority had a clinician-diagnosed mental ...

Accelerated resolution therapy significantly reduces PTSD symptoms, researchers report

July 27, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers at the University of South Florida (USF) College of Nursing have shown that brief treatments with Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) substantially reduce symptoms associated with post-traumatic ...

First findings of virtual reality exposure therapy for PTSD

April 22, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—A randomized controlled clinical trial of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) found that shorter doses of virtual reality exposure therapy (VRE) reduces PTSD diagnoses ...

Sleep apnea treatment eases nightmares in vets with PTSD: study

July 17, 2013
(HealthDay)—For military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and sleep apnea, treatment with continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, reduces their nightmares, a new study finds.

We need more awareness about events that trigger PTSD

May 20, 2014
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is more likely to be recognised in those suffering military combat trauma than in rape and accident victims, according to new research.

Recommended for you

Babies can learn that hard work pays off

September 21, 2017
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. A new study from MIT reveals that babies as young as 15 months can learn to follow this advice. The researchers found that babies who watched an adult struggle at two different ...

Study links brain inflammation to suicidal thinking in depression

September 21, 2017
Patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) have increased brain levels of a marker of microglial activation, a sign of inflammation, according to a new study in Biological Psychiatry by researchers at the University of ...

Oxytocin turns up the volume of your social environment

September 20, 2017
Before you shop for the "cuddle" hormone oxytocin to relieve stress and enhance your social life, read this: a new study from the University of California, Davis, suggests that sometimes, blocking the action of oxytocin in ...

Researchers develop new tool to assess individual's level of wisdom

September 20, 2017
Researchers at University of San Diego School of Medicine have developed a new tool called the San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE) to assess an individual's level of wisdom, based upon a conceptualization of wisdom as a trait ...

Alcohol use affects levels of cholesterol regulator through epigenetics

September 20, 2017
In an analysis of the epigenomes of people and mice, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the National Institutes of Health report that drinking alcohol may induce changes to a cholesterol-regulating gene.

Self-control may not diminish throughout the day

September 20, 2017
After a long day of work and carefully watching what you eat, you might expect your self-control to slip a little by kicking back and cracking open a bag of potato chips.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.