Recovering From the Bodily Effects of Serious Trauma
When you are under high levels of stress, you react in a variety of ways. Some of these reactions are psychological or emotional. Others are physical. One common reaction is the development of body tremors. Specialists sometimes use the term neurogenic tremors to describe these involuntary muscle movements.
Neurogenic tremors are a frequent symptom of several different mental health conditions. Treatment for these conditions can help ease your tremors. However, research shows that it may be possible to use neurogenic tremors to your advantage. The method for doing this is known as tension/trauma relieving exercise, or TRE.
How the Body Stores Trauma
Trauma occurs when you are exposed to shocking situations that overload your body’s ability to handle stress. Situations capable of doing this include:
- Experiencing acts of violence
- Being sexually assaulted or abused
- Witnessing others experience violence or sexual assault
- Living through a natural disaster
- Being exposed to war or combat
Traumatic experiences set off a chain reaction of stress inside your body. This reaction includes things such as:
- Changes in your normal brain function
- Alteration of your brain’s chemical balance
- The spread of stress hormones that trigger your “fight-or-flight” response
These responses happen very quickly. They lead to additional changes that affect systems throughout your body, including your:
- Nervous system
- Cardiovascular system
- Respiratory system
- Gastrointestinal system
In most cases, when a traumatic event ends, your system begins to readjust and your stress reactions ease. However, this does not always happen. Some people continue to experience the changes triggered by a traumatic event. In essence, your brain and body store the trauma. The end result can be the onset of significant changes in your physical function. You also face the risk of eventually developing posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
What Are Neurogenic Tremors
The term neurogenic basically means “originating in the nerves.” A tremor is a rhythmic, back-and-forth movement of your muscles that is beyond your control. In turn, the term neurogenic tremors refer to involuntary muscle movements that start in your nervous system. You may also see these movements referred to as neurophysiological tremors.
As part of the typical stress reaction, muscles tense and tighten throughout your body. This tension and tightness will fade away if your stress levels drop. However, if you are under chronic stress, your muscles get no such relief. Instead, they continue to remain under a high level of strain.
Chronic stress is strongly associated with PTSD. It is also linked to a number of other mental health conditions, including:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Social phobia
- Panic attacks and panic disorder
In turn, all of these conditions are associated with neurogenic tremors.
Tremors, PTSD and Trauma Triggers
People with PTSD do not typically experience the same level of symptoms at all times. Instead, symptoms tend to get worse when they are triggered or activated in specific situations. Trauma triggers have an effect because they do such things as:
- Make you recall a traumatic event
- Vividly remind you of particular things that happened during that event
- Give you an actual sense of reliving a traumatic event
All kinds of things can act as trauma triggers. Possibilities that may apply to you include:
- Sights, sounds, tastes or odors
- Specific locations or situations
- Stressful situations in general
- Articles of clothing
- Other physical objects
- The use of particular phrases or words
Any of your PTSD symptoms can be heightened or reactivated by a given trigger. That includes involuntary, neurogenic tremors. The same fact applies to other mental health conditions that involve neurogenic tremors.
Shaking as Trauma Relief
Tremors are typically viewed only as a symptom of illnesses like PTSD. However, research shows that they may also be viewed in another way. Instead of just acting as a symptom, they can be seen as your body’s attempts to cope with trauma. How does this coping mechanism work? By producing tremors, your system may be able to get rid of some of the muscle strain caused by chronic stress. In turn, reduced muscle tension may help relieve the trauma stored in your body.
TRE and Initiating Neurogenic Tremors
TRE is the name for a series of movements designed to purposefully initiate neurogenic tremors. There are a total of seven exercises used in TRE. These exercises are performed in strict order. Some TRE movements focus on stretching out your lower body, including your:
- The bottom part of your torso
Other movements are intended to create a low level of fatigue in the muscles of your:
- Lower torso
Completion of the TRE movements causes the muscles in these parts of your body to tremble. In turn, this trembling helps release tension.
TRE is not designed to be the main treatment for PTSD or other conditions. Instead, it is a complementary or adjunct treatment. This means that it helps support the benefits of main treatments such as psychotherapy and medication.
Effectiveness of TRE
Does TRE work? Studies show that it can potentially play a useful role in treating conditions that trigger neurogenic tremors. Potential benefits include:
- Improving your overall mental state
- Increasing your experience of positive emotions
- Boosting your confidence in your coping skills
Medical Supervision and Neurogenic Tremors
Whether or not you receive TRE, treatment for neurogenic tremors requires supervision. Part of this supervision is medical and helps safeguard your health during recovery. A supervisory role may also be played by psychologists, counselors, or other members of your treatment team.
Addressing the Root Cause of Neurogenic Tremors
Ultimately, the root cause of neurogenic tremors is trauma. Effective treatment must ease this trauma reaction and help you regain mental equilibrium. When that happens, the underlying source of a traumatic reaction – overwhelming stress – can be addressed.
Psychotherapy is the main option for achieving this outcome. Most of the effective therapy options belong to a group of techniques known as cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. One common CBT-based option is prolonged exposure therapy. This therapy exposes you to your trauma triggers in a well-controlled setting. With guidance from your therapist, you learn to face the reactions brought up by those triggers. Gradually, this process helps ease the overall impact of trauma.
Another option, called stress inoculation therapy, also targets your trauma triggers. During this therapy, you are exposed to moderate amounts of stress. This stress is not as great as that produced by your triggers. However, by learning how to cope with it, you help protect yourself from those triggers. Other forms of therapy may also play a role in your treatment.
Inpatient Treatment – A Full Continuum of Trauma Care
There is a continuum of care for trauma and its related mental health conditions. This continuum helps ensure that you always receive treatment that is appropriate for your situation. It also helps ensure that you do not spend more time in treatment than necessary.
If you are moderate to severely affected by trauma, recovery often begins in an inpatient program. This kind of program requires you to reside at your chosen facility while receiving care. It provides the range of treatments needed to address deep-seated trauma. It also provides prompt access to medical personnel in emergencies. In addition, inpatient care offers an around-the-clock supportive environment for the recovery process.
Learn More About Neurogenic Tremors at Emerald Isle
Neurogenic tremors are a common, involuntary byproduct of stress and trauma exposure. Most people recover from these tremors and other stress and trauma reactions on their own. However, in some cases, trauma reactions do not just subside. Instead, they help set the stage for PTSD and several different anxiety disorders.
A complementary treatment called TRE seeks to use neurogenic tremors in a positive way. TRE purposefully triggers these tremors. In doing so, it seeks to relieve the trauma-related tension in your muscles. Research confirms the potential benefits of TRE.
The frontline option for trauma treatment is psychotherapy. With or without TRE, therapy can help undo the underlying causes of trauma. Prolonged exposure therapy helps you confront your trauma triggers and deactivate them. Stress inoculation therapy helps you increase your resistance to your triggers.
Inpatient care is often the starting point for trauma treatment. You will likely need this level of care if you have moderate-to-severe symptoms of PTSD or an anxiety disorder. If you have milder symptoms, you may only require help from an outpatient treatment program.
At Emerald Isle Health & Recovery, we specialize in the treatment of trauma-related mental health conditions. Whether you need inpatient or outpatient care, you will find appropriate options among our slate of services. We also have the expertise needed to support your recovery from dual diagnosis. People with this condition have a substance problem in addition to PTSD or another mental illness. Our dual diagnosis program address all of your problems at the same time. To learn more about the services offered at Emerald Isle, just call us today. We are standing by to help you create a recovery plan that suits your unique needs and situation.
- American Psychological Association: How to Cope With Traumatic Stress
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Sciences Chapter 3. Understanding the Impact of Trauma
- American Psychological Association: Stress Effects on the Body
- American Psychiatric Association: What Is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?
- Merck Manual – Professional Version: Tremor
- Global Advances in Health and Medicine: Effects of Self-induced Unclassified Therapeutic Tremors on Quality of Life Among Non-professional Caregivers – A Pilot Study
- American Psychological Association: Stress Effects on the Body
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