I suffered from lower back pain and sciatica for 20 years before discovering TRE. Learning Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises® — and practising it regularly — got rid of my back pain completely and almost immediately. I was so amazed that this simple technique was so effective, when all the other conventional treatments and therapists or GPs I had seen were not able to help me.
Thankfully, I managed to avoid unnecessary back surgery, but it opened my eyes to the fact that I needed to take my wellbeing into my own hands and learn to understand my body better.
This was how I started my journey to become a Certified TRE® Provider, so that I could understand it and help share this with others. It has also had so many other positive effects in my life, but being able to live without pain was like being given a whole new lease on life.
In this video I share how it worked where other methods had never been able to help before. For those who prefer to keep reading, you can do so below.
Other Methods and Back Pain Treatments I Tried Before TRE
I visited the GP regularly over my life, but the only advice they could give me was to take some over the counter painkillers and wait. On occasion I was offered prescribed painkillers, but only when I had excruciating back spasms. In the very end, the doctor suggested that perhaps I could see a specialist to discuss back surgery — however, he also explained it was not guaranteed to help.
I invested a lot of time and money in having professional treatments whenever I had flare ups, which usually lasted at least several weeks at a time. My first port of call was usually the physiotherapists, who would often also give me acupuncture and offered pilates classes to help build my core strength. I would also have weekly sports massages to release any tension and knots in my body — which I always seemed to have. None of it relieved the pain, but as I explained to the physio once, it made me feel that at least I was doing something proactive to help myself.
I also went to an osteopath and on some occasions I would feel pain relief for a day or so and many times not.
I also started doing regular yoga as I knew the benefits of stretching and opening certain muscles, particularly in the hip area. It didn’t relieve the pain, although I enjoyed the yoga itself. I struggled to do some of the exercises. It wasn’t possible to do Cobra or most of the back bending exercises for many years because it put pressure on my vertebrae and would hurt.
I bought almost every book I could find about back pain but none of the advice was useful. And then there’s all the paraphernalia one can buy that is supposedly good for bad backs. I bought the most expensive Tempur mattress and matching neck supporting pillows which added to my growing list of expenses – and also to my level of stress.
I was most frustrated because I was really interested in understanding why and what was happening and what I could do to help prevent the pain in the first place. Yet none of the GPs or therapists I visited could ever answer my questions.
It seemed that back pain was a genuine mystery and that I might just have to live with it for the rest of my life.
How Quickly TRE Worked To Relieve My Pain
My back pain was completely gone within 3 TRE sessions and has never come back. I have heard similar stories from students and others who I’ve met.
Of course it’s important to say that I do practise it regularly and there are no guarantees it will be effective for everyone. Some may also need longer to notice signs of improvement, but it is intended to be a lifelong practice, not a quick fix.
Being able to live without pain was like being given a whole new lease on life.Christine Wehrmeier
Once the pain disappeared, I also made sure to do whatever I can to help prevent pain returning. I stopped carrying heavy things and I looked at all the things that caused me stress and slowly started to change my life to support my wellbeing more. I walked away from a career and a business that were far too demanding on my mind and body. I also took time out to heal and rest.
But I no longer have the fancy mattress and pillows, I never make purchases based on back concerns anymore.
Incidentally, I have also since realised that the back pain was also a precursor or a sign that I was actually burning out and needed to rest and slow down my pace of life. In hindsight I see that many of the health and life issues I had were more related than I cared to recognise.
How Was TRE So Effective Where Other Conventional Methods Were Not?
I’m still puzzled as to how doctors and other physical healing therapists are largely unaware of TRE. Yet at the same time there is so much information to study these days, many people have to specialise in their area of expertise and I don’t think it’s fair to expect others to educate us on how our bodies work.
It became clear to me that my pain was at least to some extent stress-related because sometimes the pain would disappear when a particular stressor was removed from my life.
Eventually I realised it was more specifically caused by tension in my psoas muscles. I didn’t know much about this muscle group before learning about TRE, but it happens to be a part of the body that experiences much of the deep relaxation when practising.
The Role Of The Psoas In Back Pain
First of all it helps to see where the psoas muscles lie. They attach to the lower vertebrae on our spine, then to the pelvis and then to the upper part of our legs. They also lie deep within our body, underneath organs in the abdomen. This muscle group is so important for movement. They help keep our upper, mid, and lower body connected and coordinated for movement. They make it possible for us to walk, bend over and carry out contracting movements — such as sitting, lying curled up in bed and so on.
The psoas muscles are also often referred to as the Fight/Flight muscles because they contract in response to stress or activation. Over the course of our busy lives, we can accumulate a lot of tension in these muscles and this can put pressure on this part of our body.
In my personal case, my vertebrae were being squeezed together because of the constant tension. This made my back more vulnerable to injury. On one or two occasions, I felt my disc rupture as I bent gently forward to pick something up, which was immediately followed by excruciating muscle spasms in my entire lower back region that prevented me from being able to move or stand upright easily. I sometimes also felt the tightness in my pelvis, near the pubic bone.
It’s also easy to see how it could be possible for nerves, such as the sciatic nerve, to become trapped or squeezed if it comes close to these muscles — or other tense muscles in the region.
When the psoas muscles are tight, it can also cause an imbalance in the hips and affect the way we walk, it can affect our posture and can also lead to pain in the upper back, neck and shoulders. I always had tension in my upper back — like the saying goes, it was like I went through life with the weight of the world on my shoulders.
It is also no coincidence that some people who have back issues may also have digestive issues, or issues related to organs that sit in the abdomen. Anything from IBS, constipation, related to the reproductive organs and so on.
TRE Relieves Back Pain By Relaxing The Psoas
The first few times I experienced TRE, I felt a deep relaxation in my entire abdomen. I wasn’t used to experiencing these kind of sensations before, so it was hard to describe, but it was the psoas relaxing.
I could feel something pleasant in my abdomen, maybe like a pleasant humming or vibration. My stomach gurgled loudly the whole time and I was so hungry after the session, all signs of my digestive organs relaxing and getting to work.
This also meant I had very healthy bowel movements in the following days. Before you think: “TMI!”, I mention this because students are often too shy to ask about this, but it is something many people report to me privately. Yes, it’s a sign of tension release.
At the end of those first few sessions I felt more relaxed than any massage or spa day I’ve every experienced in my life. I felt like a bowling ball had been lifted out of my belly, I felt so light and spacious inside and gradually the back pain eased. It was enough to convince me to keep practising and learning, even if I didn’t understand it at the time.
TRE actually helps create overall relaxation in the body, not just in the psoas, which is obviously beneficial if stress is a contributing factor to pain. But to understand the specifics of what makes so unique one needs to understand the basic mechanism.
TRE Is A Technique To Help Us Re-Connect With Our Bodies’ Natural Instinct To Tremor
Our bodies are designed to tremor or shake to release tension in the body and calm the nervous system when we are in a state of activation or stress. It is like the body’s own exhaust system. Most of us suppress this instinct because we are given messages that it is uncool or unacceptable to show signs of weakness or to express emotion. But at some points in our lives, we’ve all experienced it.
Whether it’s shaking from nerves when you go for an important job interview, after you’ve given birth, during orgasm, when you realise you’ve won the lotto, experience shock trauma, or are triggered by something that causes anxiety — these are all examples of how the body tremors to release energy, adrenaline and tension.
When we suppress and contain our bodies instincts to release energy and downregulate in this way, it has nowhere to go and is stored in our body as tension, in particular, our psoas.
The tremoring that is experienced in a TRE session is initiated from the brain stem and nervous system. Our body receives the impulse to relax and release tension through a calming vibration of the muscles and fascia.
It’s important to bear in mind that the muscles of the body are constantly in pulsation, but it’s usually so subtle we do not perceive it. We tend to only perceive the pulsation when it becomes amplified as the level of activation in our bodies increases. So the idea of vibrating, tremoring or shaking is natural and healthy. It’s akin to doing breath work for relaxation. You work with a natural process your body already does.
How TRE Is Unique To Other Relaxation Techniques and Wellness Practices Such As Yoga
Most conventional methods of relaxation are all external and require some kind of conscious thought and effort. Someone — whether it’s you or a therapist — has to move your body, do a stretch, massage something and so on.
If you take massage, for example, the stomach area is often avoided because sessions are usually not long enough. But it’s also a difficult and delicate area to massage, many organs lie in the abdomen, including digestive organs. The psoas muscles lie deep underneath, making it impossible to access easily.
Physiotherapists are trained to work with the psoas, but even then it can be somewhat limited as there is no getting around the fact that the psoas are deep within. Some parts come closer to the surface, such as the pubic bone, but this is once again a sensitive area. My physiotherapist suggested that I try rolling on a tennis ball if I feel tightness that that area. But it was incredibly painful and not an experience I would like to repeat.
Movement exercises such as yoga are wonderful and there are many asanas that help to “open” the hip flexors, psoas and other related areas. Yet in my experience, they never provided pain relief and still require conscious effort. For some people it may be more physical effort than they are able to manage, particularly when the pain is bad or limits movement.
TRE Works From The Inside Out. It’s An Unconscious Process, Effortless & Painless
Despite the name, TRE® — or Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises — the point is not completing the exercises. The whole goal of TRE is to help re-engage your natural, neurogenic tremors, which are responsible for the therapeutic effect of releasing tension and creating relaxation in your body and nervous system.
The exercises taught in TRE are a valuable learning tool, and much like training wheels on a bike, are eventually no longer needed.
Given that these tremors, or shaking, are an innate process, it works in a completely different way to any other conventional and known relaxation techniques.
Firstly, it is generated from your body and works from the inside out. It is an unconscious process that happens below the level of thought (much like breathing) and therefore it is effortless and painless.
Just like with breath work exercises, we can collaborate with our breathing for a pleasant and relaxing effect, we can also collaborate with our tremors to help slow them down, explore them with curiosity or to stop them. We often refer to this as self-regulation and it’s a very important part of the TRE® learning process.
When we work from the outside in, like with yoga or massage, we are always to some degree “guesstimating” what we are doing or where we feel we are trying to direct our efforts to. But we can never be 100% sure of how effective our efforts are.
If we can allow our bodies to experience their own neurogenic tremors, they will automatically direct the release to where the body needs it most. This is homeostasis in action. This is what TRE is about.
It is therefore the most effective method to release the psoas muscles, as well as other muscles and fascia.
Tremoring can also complement and enhance other treatments and self-care practices that we already love. For example, yoga and meditation have taken a whole new level of enjoyment for me, I feel TRE really enhances my other practices.
Considerations When Starting TRE
It is definitely worth giving TRE a go, regardless of the exact nature of your pain and certainly before you consider something as serious as back surgery. It is a whole body tension release and may have all kinds of other positive effects in your life also.
I invite you to release any expectations for a specific outcome. Tremoring is an important design feature of our bodies that we are meant to experience throughout our entire life span. To allow ourselves to make use of this feature once again can be a life changing experience.
I have heard the practice of TRE described many times as being like realising you’ve been driving through life with the handbrake on. Once you realise the problem and take the handbrake off (ie. practising tremoring regularly for your self-care), life can often feel so much smoother and easier, we can feel so much more grounded and calmer.
Remember that TRE is not guaranteed to be effective for everyone and results vary from individual to individual.
If you have tried TRE a few times and nothing is happening, or you don’t notice any difference, sign up for sessions with a trained Certified TRE Provider who can give you proper guidance about how to do the exercises and self-regulate your tremors so you get much more out of it.
Everybody can tremor and experience tension release.
It is best to learn TRE with a trained and certified TRE provider.
My personal view is that TRE is not one of the things that are best learnt through a pre-recorded video, in the same way that you wouldn’t learn how to drive a car just from videos. Most of us have never experienced our bodies or our nervous systems in this way before and it often takes a bit of coaching to become comfortable it.
I have had students who confess they tried it first by watching a video online but didn’t “get it” or perhaps they felt uncomfortable doing it on their own because they started to experience movements or sensations they didn’t understand and know what to do with.
In the supportive space of our sessions, they are able to experience their tremors and receive the guidance they need to really relax and enjoy it.
Please also give it some time.
TRE is intended to be a lifelong practice and not a quick fix. If we’ve spent our entire lives building up all this tension, it is going to take some time to release it. Slow and steady is the key.
TRE takes just 10 mins, it fits easily into life
As mentioned earlier, at some point you will no longer need to do the exercises to experience the therapeutic effects of tremoring. This means you will need much less time, you could tremor for as little as 10-15 minutes, about 2-3 times a week.
This is easily incorporated into life and can work well with your other favourite self care practises. I personally like to tremor as part of my cool down after a workout or at the end of a yoga session, as well as stand alone TRE® sessions.
I hope this post has been useful, if you have any questions or would like to share your experience, feel free to leave a comment. If you would like an answer to your question, the quickest way to get in touch with me is via email.
I run regular classes online, and I teach both in small groups or individually. You can book these directly here.
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