Practical Bodywork Blog

Touchy Topic Tuesday: Is ‘Tapping’ For Real?

Posted by on September 03, 2013 in Pain | Comments Off on Touchy Topic Tuesday: Is ‘Tapping’ For Real?

Full disclosure: I just did this. Three times. I felt like a real fool.

But I’ve had an inflamed ankle for way too long now, especially considering that my job is to relieve problems like chronically inflamed ankles. I know what’s causing it. I got into this line of work partly because of first-hand experience with intractable pain. I’ve done all the things I advise my clients to do: yoga, bodywork, proper shoes, cutting back (WAY back) on workouts, arnica, even the evil NSAID in a pinch. And I’m still hobbling around like Quasimodo.

Quasimodo

Me, dragging my carcass through the parking lot.

So I tried a few rounds of tapping. Spoiler: It did not magically heal my inflamed tendon. It did, however, go a small way toward relieving the chronic tension in my right leg which I believe to be the original cause of the inflammation. I’ll keep you posted.

The ‘science’ behind tapping, such as it is, has been mostly dismissed or ignored by the mainstream medical establishment. Interestingly, the skeptics dismiss it out of hand on the basis that ‘the existence of a human energy field cannot be proven by science.’ But the EFT sites that I perused didn’t directly mention ‘chi’ or ‘human energy field.’ Instead, they present tapping as a way to gently rewire the nervous system.

This makes a certain amount of sense to me, as a bodyworker. The major cause of chronic tension in the musculoskeletal system is stress, i.e. arousal of the hypothalmic-pituitary-adrenal axis. When your mind is fearful, it stimulates your brain to release hormones which promote a fight-or-flight response. This, in turn, charges up your muscles, stiffens your fascia, and turns off your immune system. You’re prepared to run, but you’re not handling routine maintenance, much less repairing damaged tendons.

The thing is, most of your neurological activity is not under your conscious control. The vast majority of time we are operating on autopilot, even when we think we’re alert and present and calm. In my case, there seems to have been a macro running in my brain on a repeat loop, telling my right leg to get ready to run. (The left one had this problem for about six years, seven years ago.) And no amount of me telling my leg to chill the heck out has had any effect. If any magic trick can get into my brain and turn off that switch, I’m all for it.

Additionally, I’m beginning to suspect that there is a special and little-understood relationship between fascia and the nervous system. There is still no clinical consensus on what causes fascia to become restricted, with one camp theorizing that it sticks to itself because of physical trauma and repetitive stress, and the other pointing to the nervous system as a controlling agent in fascial viscosity. This may not seem important to you, but I would genuinely like to know whether I’m helping my clients because I’m manually un-sticking their fascia, or because I’m encouraging their nervous system to relax. It makes a difference to what kind of continuing education workshops I attend.

At the very least, tapping seems to activate the placebo effect, which is the best I can do right now, all other bases having been covered.

Have any of you tried it? What were your results? What’s your opinion?