Relieve Symptoms of PTSD: Allow Your Body To Shake
I have had enormous success by allowing my body to shake to help relieve my symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The process sounds a little strange when you first hear about it, but can be an enormously powerful tool in the PTSD healing process. You can allow the body to shake to relieve the symptoms of PTSD.
The PTSD Releases When I Let My Body Shake
I have been able to release the tensions and feelings that were stored in my body from the abuse by allowing my body to shake. I was too shut down to experience any feelings during the traumatic events, but as those stuck feelings release, I feel lighter and more balanced. I can do things that the abuse prevented me from doing before.
How Did I Discover the Shaking Concept?
When I first started dealing with the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder in my life, it was the late 1980s, and much less was known about it. At that time, PTSD was something that happened to combat veterans. I had to figure out through trial and error how to overcome the effects of abuse that had led to my PTSD. I was working with a therapist who told me several times that the effects of trauma were stored in the body at the cellular level and needed to be released. I didn’t quite understand, but began to explore that direction.
I attended a group that helped people process feelings from traumatic events in their lives. To resolve anger, they suggested shouting, or hitting a bed with a newspaper. For grief, a person would cry. To deal with fear, they mentioned that sometimes a person’s body would shake. I began to experience that sensation.
The PTSD Symptoms of Trauma Releases When the Body Shakes
When my body shakes, and the fear is diminished. At the time, I was uncovering memories of violence with my dad which had been buried for over 20 years. I experienced my legs shaking, and began to realize that I was trying to release the trauma from the violence I had endured. At times my arms would shake, and sometimes my legs would shake. Mostly it happened late at night – I discovered that’s when the abuse took place.
Each time the shaking occurred, I felt less fearful, and would experience a sense of calm and peacefulness. When I released old feelings, it would lead to new insights. I had more emotional freedom, and had more control over my fear. The strange part was that I didn’t realize how much my life was dominated by fear until I began to get free of it.
My perspective also shifted, and I was able to see my dad in a more loving and forgiving light. He had experienced similar violence in his childhood, and had just passed it on. That awareness didn’t excuse his abusive actions – but it did help me understand him better.
Tension and PTSD Trauma Release Exercises
Only last year I got confirmation for what I had been doing when I found out that Dr. David Berceli had formalized the process, calling it TRE for Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises (When Talk Therapy Fails to heal PTSD). When I realized it was a powerful healing tool that could help many people, I was relieved, because it wasn't just a random and odd sensation only I experienced.
Then I watched a television special on PTSD in the military. It showed a soldier in World War I sitting in a ditch, just having left combat. His body was shaking violently. I completely understood how he felt, and at that moment I realized that shaking to release fear is not a new concept – our bodies will naturally try to resolve trauma if we let them.
I continue to let my body shake as needed, and consider it one of the most valuable tools I’ve ever found to deal with the effects of abuse in my life.
My Experience With Shaking To Release the PTSD Symptoms of Trauma
Photo by Anita @ Flickr. Creative Commons.
Dan is a PTSD survivor, and author of Healing The Writer: A Personal Account of Overcoming PTSD and Freedom’s Just Another Word. You can connect with Dan on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, and at his website DanLHays.com.
Hays, D. (2015, September 21). Relieve Symptoms of PTSD: Allow Your Body To Shake, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, October 4 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2015/09/allowing-the-body-to-shake-to-release-trauma
Author: Dan Hays
Dan, thank you. I think the link to the "therapy fails" article changed. Here's an alternative.
Thank you for sharing your stories of vulnerability.
It takes a lot of courage.
This is helpful to hear about, as I have began having episodic shaking in my lower pelvis that began about a year or so ago. It almost seems like my body is re-enacting some things that have happened to me- which makes sense, as I recently began to remember abuse I experienced as a little child.
It was really scary at first, because I didn’t understand if the shaking was a flashback or a tremor.
This article is helping me make sense of this.
Healing for all. 🙏
Wow! I've been working on my Complex-PTSD and instead of ending up hiding in my closet contemplating suicide. I ended up talking to my husband about my triggers and afterwards I began to have a convulsive type of shaking from deep in my stomach and it lasted for a few minutes as the intensity began to decrease. I realized something profound happened there was a new way for my body and mind to heal from triggering events. My husband did try and stop my shaking but I knew I needed to shake it off or well it was bizarre shaking and speaking was difficult. Nature is soooo cool. Thanks for your article.
Hi Ruth Marie,
Thank you for your comment. I am thrilled to hear that your experience with this coping mechanism has been positive and profound.
Thank you for sharing. I have a question...I recently started practicing TRE and now my body is spontaneously having tremors on its own. I have CPTSD, anxiety and panic disorder. Is this normal?
I went to a class yesterday where the yoga instructor taught some Neurogenic release exercises also called TRE . At the end of class my thighs and legs were having tremors. Tremors were therefore induced by exercise. it did not happen on its own.
I remember when my father passed away and I was in a different country I had tremors all through my body and I wondered why it was happening. Now I know that my body was dealing with the fear and sadness of losing my father. It was releasing excess fear that my body could handle.
Thanks for writing today. Yes, I have experienced exercise as freeing up the shaking process as well. I know the tremors are very disconcerting when we first encounter them, and I hope you understand them better now. Exactly - it's our bodies very naturally releasing excess and stored up fear.
You're very welcome, Joyce. I think TRE and SE are very similar. I have a good friend who has done a lot of SE, and his experience sounds remarkably similar to mine. Acupuncture - absolutely! For me, it relaxes me so the release process can take place.
You know, I haven't heard much talk about resting - but you're completely right. This sort of work takes a lot out of me, so rest is imperative.
Thank you for the article. I was introduced to a wonderful book by a somatic practitioner called Waking the Tiger by Dr Peter Levine. I also had discovered Dr Bercelli on my own and realized that what I was doing on my own was his TRE. I do find that acupuncture helps and that shiatsu massage is absolutely wonderful. These modalities help further the release. I do try to rest the next couple days afterwards as a great deal of crying and shaking may happen.
I am so happy to have found this page. I’ve been having a hard time finding information about shaking and PTSD. I wanted to seek out advice & I've never been to a therapist or gotten help before.
I am 19. When I was of the ages of about 8 to maybe 12 (I can’t quite remember when i managed to put a stop to it) I was in a sexual situation with a person a couple of years older than me. I didn’t realize until many years later that the situation involved coercion and mental abuse & that I could not tell anyone without causing a huge problem and feeling intense shame. It disgusts me to think about it.
Thinking about it bothered me a lot for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t know just how badly the experiences affected me. To this day, I have never had sexual attraction towards someone (and rarely ever romantic attraction) and I am not sure if that is just because I am asexual or if I have developed an unconscious aversion to sexual intimacy.
Last year, I tried hooking up with a friend that I trusted. I felt nothing during these times. We made out several times on different occasions, and each time I would shake uncontrollably to the point where we would have to stop. It would start with parts of my body twitching, especially my legs and back. It would escalate until they were full-body tremors, starting in my legs and moving up my chest, & on especially bad occasions, to my arms. My friend would try to calm me down, and once the shaking stopped I would twitch for a while.
I’ve been dealing with what I am almost certain is depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and potential ADD. I have struggled with self harm.
My legs are shaking again from me even writing this. I know it is a lot to unpack but I appreciate anyone even reading this.
I'm glad you have found this article useful. It sounds like your body tremors are a lot like what I have experienced. Yes, it can make me shake just to write or talk about these issues. The more you do it, the more it lets those old fears release!
Thank you so much for sharing that. I have experienced shaking and tremors on and off for the last 20 years. The way that I experience it is that my body knows exactly what it’s doing and it is releasing past trauma. I don’t have any memory before five years old. I was conceived by a woman who was raped and then given up for adoption and then put in foster care for a short time before landing with a family. The family I landed with had a lot of issues with cigarette and alcohol use. I don’t believe I felt I was in a safe enough environment to process the trauma from the adoption and whatever else I experience in the womb from being inside of a mother who had been raped. Every time I have one of these shaking episodes, I feel like I’ve taken one more step in letting go ofSome of her pain that I took on and also the trauma around the birth process and fostering at such a young age. It feels liberating to know that when I am in safe enough place my body will heal itself. I truly believe that the body’s natural tendencies toward wholeness and wellness and if we create an environment for it to heal it will. I’ve had to really let go of control when my body takes over and it can be embarrassing at times, but I’m learning that it’s really a good thing and the feeling of freedom I have afterwards is quite profound. I’ve also had some deeply spiritual experiences After releasing some of the tension and stress in my body that put me in touch with a higher level of seeing the world. In that way, my past trauma has both been a blessing and a curse I guess you could say. Thank you for sharing your story. Keep going and allow the shakes, it’s good to let it go all those things that no longer serve.
Thank you encouraging me to shake. My arm has been shaking on and off for three years. It’s all to do with my mother dying on me 24 years ago. I shake when I’m alone and I go back to other times and places. Your video has helped me, as I’ve decided to not fight the shakes and just let them roll. Hi ho.
Good for you, Jimo. That's been what has worked for me as well - just let them roll!
Saying a big thanks Dan for what I read from you and others commented. Well, I'd like to share with you another way of receiving from PTSD as I feel it myself in order to know if there's someone with the same experience to help understand if it ain't another problem. Just as at that time when a person was scared, it normally breaks from their body a reflex- sweat (r-s) . So that kinda r-s is likely to be what most cells within my inner abdomen, liver, lung, kidneys are doing. Though I've experienced similar to my heart, but it has stopped to do that before the other internal organs begun to do theirs. By the way am currently receiving so I can't predict how long it takes to recover fully from this PTSD, as am feeling really really happy and recovering after releasing some toxins (I dunno if I can call it dead hormone from the organs sweating). Perhaps I might come back to notify you when am fully recovered.
I’ve just started experiencing this. I’m going through a confusing separation in my marriage and last year I had a miscarriage which suddenly triggered PTSD from a previous abusive relationship. I had completely blanked everything about it and had forgotten so much of the abuse. I had emotional numbing for about a decade after and this has all triggered the memories. I had counselling and brought it all up a few months ago but just recently I am starting to ‘feel’ again and I am getting uncontrollable shakes. It starts in my chest and then I feel jittery all over including arms flinging out and everything feeling tense and shaky. It’s such a relief to find out that this is a thing and I’m going to try and embrace it. I just want to feel normal and immediate rather than taking such a long time to process my emotions. I don’t know how I feel a lot of the time because I’m just not reactive.
I've been looking for information on this. I have C-PTSD from childhood abuse. I was in denial for a long time. As the veil on reality lifted, I have been experiencing what I'll call "deep shudders" that run from deep in my abdomen up through my right shoulder, sometimes with enough force to cause my head to jerk back and my arm to jerk out. If I feel it coming on, I can will it the rest of the way. Weird stuff indeed.
This exactly echoes my experience, except with legs. I know what you mean about being able to bring it on. I've often thought it might be like a seizure in some way, but with muscles instead of brain tissues.
I also have C-PTSD. When I started doing Brain Spotting with my therapist a couple of months ago, I experienced hard, painful tremors in my neck and shoulder. Feels like my neck is going to snap in two and my arm is going to break right off my shoulder. Very painful and scary. Also my leg jumps around, my hip locks up so I can't walk and I lose the ability to speak. I pray this doesn't last much longer.
Do you shake with any particular method in mind (such as the TRE method), or you just let your body shake as it wants to?
Hi Cam. Actually, my shaking is very similar to the TRE method, but TRE wasn't around when I started releasing that way. So I just relax and let my body do what it will.
Just tried therapist assiated mdma protocol for ptsd, and I shook for over 2 hours replaying the trauma. I was able to fully connect to the trauma without being flooded by fear and could stay fully present with it. My traumas were so early in life, they were very difficult to access. Hopefully this will be a readily available option within a few years. Ive been working on trying to release this trauma for decades, and the amount of release from a single session is mind boggling
Joe, can you email me please??
Hello! Thank you for your article. I have experienced what I think is shaking mostly when I am crying to release trauma grief. But I have also been experiencing a lot of body twitches over the past couple weeks. Does that go along with what your are sharing about or is that another aspect of PTSD? I am having a hard time finding information on it.
Hi Tiffany. I have experienced shaking, mine is often more like tremors or jolts. That is the best way I can describe them. Tia
Hiya, My name is Kensey, and my shaking is inside my chest. To be more specific, it starts in my chest and then moves down my arms, and up through my neck. I'm often poked at for it, and asked if I'm cold, or if the person addressing me scared me. I don't know what to do or how to stop them.
It's a weird experience, isn't it? Interesting that your shaking happens also in your chest. Mine is mostly in my arms and legs. But - it sounds like the same phenomenon - our bodies are naturally trying to release trauma! So I think you might want to just let it continue to release. It's hard when it happens around people, because they just don't understand, and it's tough for them to watch!
For support, consider this forum: https://healthunlocked.com/healmyptsd. It's a growing group of people with PTSD, who are sharing their experiences, and where people "get it" when we talk about what's going on.
Thanks for the info on PTSD and trembling. I have the exact reaction at the movies ( right leg) and when I'm in public places (like standing in line or waiting. Also at night in bed resting or trying to go to sleep. My wife says my legs shake even when I sleep. My trauma is a result of serious transplant issues and health related. So good to know this reaction is positive and not a mental downfall. Thank you so much.
I have started to work with a somatic practitioner. I don't shake in the way I think is being described here. I shake hard when I cry this stuff out- my body and shoulders shake hard as my lungs also shake. This is old trauma from childhood and it has been with me for 50 years. It has come out marginally at different intervals of life, but now it is coming out full tilt.
Thank you for your blog
Thanks for your comments. One of my recovery buddies has been working with a somatic practitioner, and as he describes the work, it leads to the same results I've gotten from the shaking. It does sound like when you're crying your body is also releasing effects when you shake. I hear you about old trauma - mine was when I was 8 years old, and started breaking loose when I was in my '50s.
For support, consider this forum: https://healthunlocked.com/healmyptsd
It's a growing and very supportive group of people with PTSD, and has been a Godsend in my world. It's amazing to be in a place where people just "get it" when I talk about my experience.
I wonder which is the maximum time needed to completely release trauma through body shaking and trembling. I know it depends on the severity of trauma: it can take days or weeks (a person said that it took a few weeks for him), but I hope not months or years.
I also wonder if someone shakes his body but maybe doesn't shake enough the trauma is processed anyway at a neuronal level or not.
Psychiatrists seem to not know these things.
My whole body shakes most of the time now. If i lay down and rock i seem to be able to sooth or have a Valium helps. It seems to get worse in the morning and then through out the day. Mid morning is the time i lay down or take Valium. I struggle to drink a cop of yea. If i am out i gete strange looks. At this point i dont care i cant help it but reading this if it helps shake away body and heal. My writing looks like a 2 year olds also and i am a 51 yo nurse with normally legible handwriting.
I hear you, Karen! It's tough when the shaking gets as bad as yours is right now. i'm glad the post can give you some perspective, and some hope that - it will not always be like this!
It does help, I suppress it when I go out, I'm not trying to make myself a target. I've found that there's a lot of things I'm scared of. Sometimes it gets so bad, my teeth hurt from chattering. I never thought of it as a release. I got preyed on as a child, and getting the feelings out took years. A lot of memories will never feel good, but there a part of me. Thanks for the advice
I hear you, Michael - I have to be in a safe place to allow the shaking to happen. As to being a release - allow yourself to shake for a while, and see if you don't feel lighter and more free afterward. It's happened that way for me. Plus - I get new awarenesses. I've thought of the stuffed feelings like static that keep me from hearing my truth. You're very welcome!
I have been googling healing trauma thru shaking and not found much except for dan's video...I am a 56 year old female and about 5 weeks ago I had a bicycle accident. My towel was hanging over the handlebars of my bike and slipped into the front spokes and I flew over the handle bars (thank god I had a helmet on!). The helmet cracked, I do have a concussion but no broken bones, my forearms are still incredibly sore as they also took the brunt of my fall. During my first acupuncture session my body shook the entire session, 30 to 40 minutes. The acupuncturist said this was good, it's what wild animals do to heal, I had several more sessions, no shaking.
After a few more weeks I went to a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy) for a 30 minute osteopathic treatment and he told me I was holding onto trauma and needed to do deep breathing and try to release it. After several more sessions I did try meditating and after a 30 minute meditation/visualization session my body started to spontaneously shake and this went on for 30 minutes, I was fully conscious and could have stopped at any time but it felt "right". The next day I tried it again but didn't even need the meditation, I just relaxed and it came on for 45 minutes. The next day I had 3 shaking sessions lasting 30 to 40 minutes each! And then one more the following day. After that I seemed to be finished, I went to the osteopath (D.O.) again a few days ago and shook during the session. He thinks that in addition to the current trauma my body has experienced, I have old trauma in my body that I am releasing too. It has been such a powerful experience, I just needed to share it.
Thanks so much for sharing your powerful experience. It sounds like your body intuitively sought out the right way to release the trauma. Good for you to just go along and let it happen. The experience really rattles a lot of people, and they fight it. So when you allowed it to continue, it made the process go more quickly.
I think your osteopath is right on target - it sounds like your body is releasing old traumas in addition to the current trauma. From what I've experienced, I don't need to know exactly what I'm releasing, but just allow it to happen, and after a while, it eases up. You're treating yourself right, and I suspect you'll be amazed at how it changes things.
What I've learned is to watch for new awarenesses. I call those old feelings that were stuck in my body the "static" that kept me from hearing my truth. As I release them, I become more clear and aware about what happened to me, and how it affected me.
You're on a powerful road, Renee! May the benefits be many for you! :)
How to start shaking?
I'm so sorry to hear about the tension you feel in your neck and muscles. I am not a medical expert, so I don't know if that will eventually resolve by itself. If it were me, I'd check with a medical person for possible solutions.
Unfortunately I do not shake, and my body holds severe unconscious tension in neck and muscles that need to be released. In fact knots an spasms. I need a Reset or something. It causes pain. Will it eventually go away by self?
I have done incredible work on self for 2 years.
Thank you for your information
I too have recently experienced shaking as I was working on unblocking my toxic feelings. It happened when I was becoming 'vulnerable' to my nasty thoughts, which I usually suppress and they turn into self criticisms or codependent interactions. As I was becoming more vulnerable than I have ever done, my limbs began to shake to the nasty feelings that I now was feeling. Those feelings were ones of being manipulated by my abusers. In addition to the shaking, I began to dry heave. Whenever those nasty feelings surfaced, I let my body shake and do it's thing, and I began to feel great afterwards. I believe this is the grieving I have not done in the past, and the blocked feelings turned into all kinds of nasty behavior. I'm glad that you put this video up because I was looking frantically on the net to see if someone else had experienced shaking to relieve their ptsd symptoms. Thank you for confirming my thoughts about this. I will continue to work on myself, and let go of all those nasty feelings.
Well said about your experience. If I try to repress those old grief feelings, they can release in very toxic ways. The shaking releases the feelings I never experienced when the trauma happened, and yes, when I release them, I feel great afterward too!
I'm glad my video helped you feel validated for your shaking experience.
Check out this site for more information: http://traumaprevention.com
Let me know how it continues to go for you as you release those old toxins!
Very helpful article, Dan ! My arm-tremors are highly embarrassing, especially when wearing a business suit. Somehow developed from my dual-sourced PTSD; active military service plus being abused as a pre-teen.
Interesting though, that my psychiatrist once compared my tremors to "chattering teeth"! As when immersed in very cold water. That being a different physiological reaction, to uncontrollable body stressors.
Fortunately my AMAZING service dog senses my tremor onsets, even minor ones. Then he'll tug at my wrist with his teeth, or try to "arm-wrestle" me, with his front paws. Often that distraction (and requisite muscle movement) is all that's needed to quell my 'shakes'.
All the best to you...
Barry ( Cape Town, South Africa)
Thanks for stopping by to comment, and I'm glad you found the article helpful. I can completely relate how the tremors can be embarrassing and awkward. I honor you with the deepest respect for your service.
Interestingly, I talked with one Vietnam vet who said his combat buddies told him they thought he had PTSD before he ever went to Vietnam - he thought it was from his childhood abuse. I'm sure your pre-teen abuse must have added tremendously complex layers to your struggle in dealing with PTSD.
I completely get the chattering teeth visual - that's what it feels like for me at times. Other times it's just the uncontrollable tremors.
That is incredible that your service dog can sense your tremor onsets - isn't it amazing how intuitive animals can be? I'm glad you have him to support you.
Thanks Dan....it's funny bc when my hands shake, I feel embarrassed. My therapist showed me a trick....rubbing or wringing my hand together.....they warm up and stop shaking. It's amazing.
I also like rocking....it soothes me.
You're very welcome. Interesting trick by the therapist - rubbing your hands to stop them shaking. Rocking is great also! I don't know what I would do if the leg shaking started happening in public. :)