Inspiration

Does the Physical Act of Tapping on Acupoints Really Make a Difference? Research Says Yes!

Written by: Nick Ortner

There are over 100 research studies demonstrating the effectiveness of EFT Tapping. This is a technique that has been proven time and time again to make a big difference for a wide variety of physical and mental health concerns including anxiety, depression, PTSD, pain, weight loss, insomnia, and headaches, to name a few.

So we know that people get really amazing results when they use the Tapping technique. And we know that it can create physiological changes in the body too, like reducing cortisol levels and even positively altering gene expression.[1,2,3,4]

But still, many people wonder – what parts of the Tapping technique are responsible for these results? What elements of Tapping are the active ingredients that create such incredible outcomes?

The many elements of Tapping

EFT Tapping has roots in two major healing modalities: Ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology. It draws on many different principles, theories, and therapeutic tools. 

During a Tapping session, we acknowledge our emotions and say certain statements aloud. This is the part of Tapping that draws on modern psychology principles, such as cognitive restricting and exposure techniques. 

At the same time, we also tap our fingertips on certain acupressure points along the body’s meridians, which we refer to as “Tapping points.” This is the part of Tapping that draws on ancient Chinese acupressure principles. 

Because Tapping involves several different elements, including acknowledging our emotions, speaking aloud certain statements, and acupressure point stimulation, it is natural to wonder: which parts of this technique are really making the difference? Which elements are actually integral to its effectiveness, and which might be more extraneous?

In particular, many skeptics have questioned whether or not the physical tapping part of EFT actually does anything significant. After all, Tapping can look kind of odd, and many can find it hard to believe that tapping your fingers on certain parts of the body leads to any meaningful effects. So it isn’t surprising that some people question whether or not it is really a valid technique. 

Luckily, scientific research has come to the rescue to help us answer these questions and reinforce the true power of the Tapping technique.

Looking for the active ingredients – researchers investigate

A research group led by Dr. Dawson Church and Peta Stapleton conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis study in 2018 to determine if, in fact, tapping on acupressure points is an active ingredient in EFT.[5]

In the author’s own words, “The aim of the original article was to determine if acupoint tapping was an active or inert ingredient. Because EFT also includes elements drawn from conventional psychotherapy techniques, it is possible that its measured effects are entirely due to these, with tapping merely serving as a placebo, distraction, or inert ingredient.”[6]

To investigate this question, the researchers gathered data from several studies. They chose studies where Tapping was compared to a control treatment in which the active tapping component was omitted or swapped out for something else. For example, they found studies where the traditional Tapping technique was compared to a “sham” treatment where participants tapped on fake acupoints instead of the real ones. Other studies used diaphragmatic breathing instead of tapping on acupoints as a comparison.

The results of the researchers’ analysis led to some exciting conclusions. The data showed that experimental Tapping interventions that had the acupoint tapping component removed or swapped out were not nearly as effective as the traditional Tapping technique using the real Tapping points.[5]

The authors concluded that the acupressure tapping component of EFT is, in fact, an active ingredient of the process. As the authors shared, “The positive treatment outcomes were not due solely to placebo, the nonspecific effects of any therapy, or the nonacupressure components of EFT.”[6]

This study was a really important study, because it helped us confirm that it isn’t just the statements we say, or the things we focus on in our mind during a Tapping session that create such incredible outcomes. It provided evidence that physically tapping on acupoints during EFT Tapping actually does make a difference. Without that element of the technique, we just don’t see the same positive results.

It is interesting to note that after this paper was published, the claims were challenged by other scientists. The authors of the paper decided to re-analyze their data and publish an updated correction to accommodate the mistakes that had been pointed out. But even still, the conclusions from the data held strong. In fact, the revised analysis showed even stronger evidence for the power of acupressure tapping in promoting positive outcomes.[6]

The scientific evidence continues to mount for the Tapping technique

Whether you are a longtime Tapper, are new to the practice, or haven’t started yet because you are a little skeptical about the validity of this technique, I encourage you to continue to explore the science behind Tapping. 

In addition to the research study I highlighted today, there are more than 100 others out there investigating Tapping from all different angles. And the evidence is just getting stronger and stronger confirming that yes, Tapping really works. And yes, it can make a big difference in your life. The continued study of Tapping helps us better understand how it works, why it works, and who it works for.

It is really helpful to have the scientific research back up this powerful technique. Because often, the more we know there is proof that something works, the more motivated we are to do it. There’s just that much more of a reason why. And with that reason why, the easier it becomes to convince ourselves to make room for it in our daily lives.

If you are interested in reading more about the science and research behind this evidence-based approach to stress relief and healing, I encourage you to check out this post for more information. You can also download our Science, Data, & Research Kit.

I’m so grateful to have the chance to discuss this research with you today, and I look forward to sharing more as the field of Tapping research continues to grow. 

Until next time… Keep Tapping!

Nick Ortner

References

  1. Maharaj, ME. Differential Gene Expression after Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) Treatment: A Novel Pilot Protocol for Salivary mRNA Assessment. Energy Psychology Journal. 2016;8(1):17-32. 
  2. Church D, Yount G, Rachlin K, Fox L, Nelms J. Epigenetic Effects of PTSD Remediation in Veterans Using Clinical Emotional Freedom Techniques: A Randomized Controlled Pilot StudyAm J Health Promot. 2018;32(1):112-122. 
  3. Church D, Yount G, Brooks AJ. The effect of emotional freedom techniques on stress biochemistry: a randomized controlled trial. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2012;200(10):891-896.
  4. Stapleton P, Crighton G, Sabot D, O’Neill HM. Reexamining the effect of emotional freedom techniques on stress biochemistry: A randomized controlled trial. Psychol Trauma. 2020;12(8):869-877.
  5. Church D, Stapleton P, Yang A, Gallo F. Is Tapping on Acupuncture Points an Active Ingredient in Emotional Freedom Techniques? A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Comparative Studies [published correction appears in J Nerv Ment Dis. 2020 Aug;208(8):632-635]. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2018;206(10):783-793.
  6. Church D, Stapleton P, Kip K, Gallo F. Corrigendum to: Is Tapping on Acupuncture Points an Active Ingredient in Emotional Freedom Techniques: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Comparative Studies. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2020;208(8):632-635.


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