We have seen that those who endure protracted childhood trauma are at increased risk of developing psychological and physical problems later in life, including complex post-traumatic). stress (complex PTSD. We have also seen that such individuals are often exquisitely sensitive to any form of stress and frequently stuck in a state of hypervigilance (i.e. constantly feeling as if they are on ‘red alert’).
According to the well-known trauma expert, Levine, such heightened levels of stress are the result of becoming trapped in the fight/flight state which, in turn, leads to a build-up of surplus energy trapped in the body. In such a situation, Levine states, it is necessary to find ways of discharging this excess energy so as to alleviate the associated feelings of stress.
One such method, Levine asserts, is ‘shaking therapy.’ It is also sometimes referred to as ‘neurogenic tremoring’, a phrase coined by Berceli.
The idea behind ‘shaking therapy’ comes from observing animals of prey who, after experiencing severe stress induced by a narrow escape from a predator, are often seen to ‘shake off the physiological effects of traumatic encounter by vigorously shaking their bodies before carrying on with their day-to-day activities as normal.
Indeed, in both animals and humans, such shaking can reduce activity in the brain’s hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and accompanying overactivity autonomic nervous system that, due to trauma, has become dysregulated.
This is sometimes referred to as downregulation of the autonomic nervous system and results in a reduction in the physiological symptoms of stress such as rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing/hyperventilation, and blood pressure.
Research carried out by Berceli, et al. (2014) investigated if SELF-INDUCED THERAPEUTIC TREMORS (SUTT) could improve the quality of life of individuals coping with the stress of being non-professional caregivers. Each of the participants was given 10 weeks of training and practice in SUTT and had their perceived levels of quality of life measured both BEFORE and AFTER this 10-week period of ‘shaking therapy’.
There were five measures used to quantify these participants’ perceived quality of life and it was found that, after the 10 weeks, their perception of their quality of life had increased significantly in relation to all 5 measures.
Effects of Self-induced Unclassified Therapeutic Tremors on Quality of Life Among Non-professional Caregivers: A Pilot Study
Glob Adv Health Med. 2014 Sep; 3(5): 45–48. 2014