Ep. 44: Tom Ockler – Eliminating Pain Without Manipulating the Body

Physiotherapy, if done wrong, can hurt you.

There are people who love physical manipulations done by physiotherapists and chiropractors and believe this is the way to go, and there are those who prefer to avoid it because cracking and popping is just not their thing. I’m in the latter group – mostly because of the things that I’ve learned over decades.

There are some methods, especially things like osteopathic and chiropractic manipulations that can cause severe damage.

I’ve been aware of this for a long time, so I’m glad that I could sit down with Tom Ockler to really dive into the details of this topic that can literally save lives. Tom is an internationally recognized physical therapist, teacher, and author who’s been running his practice for over 20 years, and uses a neuromuscular approach, which means he’s never resorting to manipulation.

In this interview, which is essential for understanding physical therapy, you’ll discover:

  • How a non-traditional approach to physical therapy can help you heal better.
  • About trigger points and why they so often cause problems later on after an injury.
  • What to do when the pain doesn’t want to go away.
  • Hands-on work: tapping session for reducing/eliminating stubborn pain.

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Show notes & links

The show notes are written in chronological order.

  • Tom Ockler’s website: http://www.tomocklerpt.com/
  • Increasing rates of chronic pain in the US [read it here]
  • Fagundes Loss, J., de Souza da Silva, L., Ferreira Miranda, I. et al. Immediate effects of a lumbar spine manipulation on pain sensitivity and postural control in individuals with nonspecific low back pain: a randomized controlled trial. Chiropr Man Therap 28, 25 (2020). [read it here]
  • Araujo, F. X., Ferreira, G. E., Angellos, R. F., Stieven, F. F., Plentz, R. D. M., & Silva, M. F. (2019). Autonomic Effects of Spinal Manipulative Therapy: Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of manipulative and physiological therapeutics42(8), 623–634. [read it here]
  • Chang, G., Chen, L., & Mao, J. (2007). Opioid tolerance and hyperalgesia. The Medical clinics of North America91(2), 199–211. [read it here]
  • NYT article on the 71-year-old woman who never had any pain or anxiety [read it here]
  • Dr. Patricia Carrington and the Choices EFT method [discover more here]
  • David S. Butler, G. Lorimer Moseley: Explain Pain [get the book here]
  • König, N., Steber, S., Seebacher, J., von Prittwitz, Q., Bliem, H. R., & Rossi, S. (2019). How Therapeutic Tapping Can Alter Neural Correlates of Emotional Prosody Processing in Anxiety. Brain sciences9(8), 206. [read it here]
  • Peta, S., Oliver, B., Tom, O., & Bhuta, S. (2022). Neural changes after Emotional Freedom Techniques treatment for chronic pain sufferers. Complementary therapies in clinical practice49, 101653. [read it here]

00:00 – excerpt from the episode
01:16 – intro (listen to discover a little more about your host. Martin will tell you a new lesser-known fact about Dr. Maya)

01:53
Dr. Maya Novak:
There are people who love physical manipulations done by physiotherapists and chiropractors and believe this is the way to go, and there are those who prefer to avoid it because cracking and popping is just not their thing. I’m in the latter group – mostly because of the things that I’ve learned over decades. So when I got connected with Tom Ockler in 2019 and discussed a few ‘physical therapy’ things with him, I knew I wanted to interview him on this topic that can literally save lives. So this episode that you’re tuning in is from that time but the information you’ll uncover is timeless and invaluable. Enjoy.

02:35
Dr. Maya Novak:
In this interview, I’m joined by Tom Ockler, who is an internationally recognized physical therapist, teacher, and author. Tom uses a neuromuscular approach, which means he’s never resorting to manipulation, and in that way helps patients who have not been able to get rid of pain from a variety of musculoskeletal disorders. He also incorporates EFT or tapping, to reverse and eliminate chronic pain. Tom has over 40 years of clinical experience and he’s taught all over the United States as well as Canada and Australia. Tom, thank you so much for being here.

03:15
Tom Ockler:
Thank you for asking. I’m excited.

03:18
Dr. Maya Novak:
I’m super excited as well because I’m a huge fan of your work and I cannot wait to dive in. Before we do that, can you please share with us your story? Why did you become a physical therapist?

03:33
Tom Ockler:
It’s kind of comical actually. I was a very, very overweight kid and had kind of a rough childhood and I kind of ate my way through it. When I finally decided to do something about it, I lost a whole bunch of weight really fast and then hit puberty and got so tall and skinny I spent the next couple of decades trying to lift weights and trying to bulk back up. When I went away to College, I started spending way too much time in the weightlifting room. What happened is people would invariably come up to me and say, well how do I build this muscle? How do I strengthen this muscle and disadvantage that muscle? I just knew enough from reading that I would tell them. One of the athletic trainers from the College pulled me aside and how did you know to tell them that, because that’s exactly correct. I said I don’t know, I just read some books. I kind of have an affinity for the body. He goes have you ever thought about going into physical therapy? I was trying to get into medical school. I go what’s physical therapy? He took me to the office and showed me a careers book and I went oh, I like that much better than the way I was going into medicine because I really didn’t like the idea of drugs and all that, surgery, and stuff like that. The university that I went to initially didn’t have physical therapy so I transferred back to the University of Buffalo in Buffalo, New York, and finished my biology degree and got accepted into the physical therapy program. I kind of pinch myself that it happened in such a haphazard way, but that was 45 years ago, so okay fine. I’ll take it. That’s how I got started.

05:22
Dr. Maya Novak:
It was meant to be.

05:24
Tom Ockler:
I think it was. That was just to get into physical therapy and start practicing, and then once I started practicing – to take your question and go a little further with it – how did I get into the alternative way of doing things? I was just very unhappy with what I was taught. The things we were taught were basically – we would kind of fake trying to get the patient better and if the patient got better by themselves it was probably more what we call a tincture of time rather than anything that I had to about it. I got very disillusioned with that. I got very depressed about it. I said I should be able to do more for these people, what am I missing? Well, on top of that, the way the healthcare system was run over here in the States, I was seeing a greater emphasis on productivity and income and less of an emphasis on how the patient did, on outcomes. So I finally resigned as an administrator at that hospital. I worked as an administrator, but my passion was to go back and treat the patients. So I resigned and I started doing a lot of other things, going to special courses, learning how to treat people. I had had kind of a bad skiing accident. I jokingly say the ski lodge jumped out in front of me, but actually, I went rogue and out of control and hit the ski lodge. I really, really messed myself up and was in pain for a number of years and ended up taking a muscle and energy course. Three and a half years of pain was dissipated within a day. I was so enthusiastic about it that I went back and started studying all over my old course notes that I didn’t really fully understand and suddenly came up with a different language for how to explain in everyday terms so that more people could understand how to do this stuff. I eventually went on to teach for that company and then split away and started doing my own teaching. Then about 20 years ago, I decided it was time to open up a truly alternative practice and I opened up Alternative Healthcare Solutions, which is where I am right now. So 41 years in total, 20 years at this particular practice doing it kind of the way I do it.

07:47
Dr. Maya Novak:
Beautiful. So your approach is – you describe it as non-traditional – so what does that mean, a non-traditional approach?

07:56
Tom Ockler:
Well, a traditional approach or a typical approach is kind of a conveyor belt look at the patient. They pass along on a conveyor belt and you do some basic rudimentary things and see if they get better. But to me, that wasn’t fast or direct enough. They weren’t really addressing the problem. For instance, a lot of people, they chase the pain. It hurts right here, so I’ll do something right here to get rid of the pain. But almost always, that pain is coming from a completely different area of the body. When you chase the pain, you miss the source of the pain. So that, again, was saying to me I need to take a whole different look about this. People will come into me for neck pain, and I start working on their pelvis and they don’t understand that. I try to explain to them, just like a house that’s not sitting on a level foundation, the windows and doors are not framed like this, they’re framed like this, and if I don’t level that foundation out they’re just going to continue to have a problem. So often by the time I get up to their neck and shoulders their pain is reduced simply by putting them back on a good foundation. Then when you know kind of what you’re doing, it happens very quickly. You can get to it really fast and get them started on their journey. Then you teach them how to pack a little dirt and cement around their foundation in the form of exercise, and you teach them how to avoid earthquakes for a couple of weeks – in other words, don’t impact your pelvis. The results are remarkable. So that’s kind of that alternative approach. I also see people one-on-one for an hour. They always show up to my clinic and they go I know who I’m going to see today, because I’m the only one here, me and the secretary. So they always know who their therapist is going to be. I draw on 40 years of clinical experience and all of my teaching experience and many other mentors and people that I learned from and was blessed to be able to learn from these folks as I took their work and changed it and kind of made it more efficient and more effective. Which is another reason why I teach. Because somebody coming up behind me is probably going to take that baton and even do a better job than I do. Which is great because that Chinese philosophy, when the student bests the master, it honors the master. So I keep teaching hoping that people will continue to keep the work going. There’s just not enough people doing this work, and it’s too bad because I can’t spread myself all over the world. So most of those people come and see me.

10:33
Dr. Maya Novak:
I’m super excited for you working for your students and your patients and everyone. Like I mentioned at the beginning in the intro, you go towards a non-manipulative approach.

10:49
Tom Ockler:
Right.

10:50
Dr. Maya Novak:
I’m a huge fan of that. The most common approach that PTs, osteopaths, and other medical professionals use are manipulations.

11:00
Tom Ockler:
Yes.

11:01
Dr. Maya Novak:
My question here is, how safe are manipulations?

11:05
Tom Ockler:
Well, there’s conjecture about this, but any time you take a thrust at the body, you have the option of causing of damage. The whole idea behind manipulative therapy, or thrust, or high-velocity osteopathic manipulation – and don’t get me wrong – these are smart people, but the technique that they’re using has the potential to damage the patient. Now, what we know about manipulative therapy – let’s say cracking the spine and just mobilizing and gently oscillating the spine have the same effect believe it or not. They’ve done all the studies. I list all those studies out in my courses and give people plenty of chance to go and do the research that I’ve done. As it turns out, the effect on the patient is almost the same. It’s a temporary downregulation of pain signal. I could get into the physiology, but basically, it interferes with calcium channel uptake at the nerve junction. So basically, it mutes the pain signal and the patient may get up to 20 to 30 minutes of pain relief just from the mobilization or the manipulation. The mobilization can never harm the patient; the manipulation can kill – particularly in the cervical spine. If you cause what’s called a vertebral artery dissection where it bruises the vertebral artery and a chunk of bruise, basically a clot breaks off, goes to the brain, and causes a stroke and/or death. There are many, many people who have died or been horribly maimed by this over the years. Some of them are actually celebrities that people may know. Others are just plain folk like you and me who go in and they’ll get a cervical manipulation and the person doing it, whether it’s the chiropractor or an osteopath, or a physical therapist, the mechanotherapist. The person doing it doesn’t screen the patient to find out if that patient is unusually vulnerable to the technique, unusually in jeopardy. Even if you do screen the patient and they come up everything’s fine and you manipulate them, there’s still a chance of killing them or causing a stroke or causing serious neurological damage. So the cervical spine is one of these red flag areas, why we encourage people never to do that. Now, when you take a look and contrast that particular technique with what we call neuromuscular techniques, muscle energy techniques, strain counter-strain, the amount of pressure that’s used is on the order of a pound - one pound of muscle contraction. When you get to the cervical spine, it’s eye movement. I would have you stare in a certain direction just at the right moment when I’m holding the neck and it sets off an inhibitory reflex. It sends off a shut it down signal to the muscle that’s holding the neck in less than optimal position. Once we do that, the patient is like I don’t understand, you just had me stare with eyes. All of a sudden, the neck starts to move again because of the body and the way the body is hardwired. The hardwiring inhibits the muscle that’s misbehaving. So muscle energy, a lot of people think it’s a technique that moves a bone where you want it to go, every once in a while it does. But most of the time you’re inhibiting a muscle that allows that bone to go back into place where it belongs, which makes the movement better, which gets the pain going away. Since you’re never using more poundage than the person would expend holding their head up, walking, supporting their trunk, you’re never going beyond that. It’s impossible to harm somebody. Now, the benefit to that is obvious, nobody’s ever in danger. But the other benefit is that it corrects the muscle that’s been misbehaving. It doesn’t force the bone. You correct the muscle that’s holding the bone in a less than optimal position. So people who manipulate assume that the problem’s at the joint. The problem is not at the joint. During autopsy, we never find that there’s any mysterious sticky physiologic glue that’s holding the joint in the wrong position. No. The muscle surrounding the joint got bad inflammation from a slip, from a fall, from stress, from overuse syndromes be it working out or what we jokingly call over here body by Microsoft as we’re staring at computers all day long. Any of these things can over tone up a muscle and when that muscle over tones, it creates a problem, a dilemma for the body. Manipulation doesn’t do anything for that dilemma. It merely gives a temporary downregulation of pain but doesn’t fix the problem. So when you take that whole statement – we like to use the expression – is the juice worth the squeeze. Is it worth getting the juice by squeezing the orange? Is it worth taking a manipulation and risking serious damage for something that never really corrects the problem anyway? That is that big question that everybody has to deal with. So in a nutshell, that’s why the manipulations may not be nearly as safe. Since there is a potential to harm the patient I would never use them, but it’s not particularly effective in the long run. I can get way more accomplished using the body’s hard wiring and making a permanent correction with the patient. Okay?

16:51
Dr. Maya Novak:
Yes, absolutely. So you mentioned spine corrections and manipulation, which can be really harmful. Now, is there a difference between manipulations? Why I’m asking this… for example, when I was recovering from my ankle fracture – I fractured my talus bone – my PT, she was doing some manipulation. So, what is then the difference? What is safe and what is not safe?

14:20
Tom Ockler:
Right. It’s hard for the patient to know, but your PT was very likely doing mobilization under traction. It’s an oscillation, and that’s – she wasn’t looking for pops and clicks – but some probably happened because of the adhesions and the serious damage you had to your talus. I remember seeing those x-rays and I’m going, my god, that’s amazing. So you can mobilize those restrictions, but they’re nowhere near any sensitive neurological structures like the spinal cord and the discs and the arteries that would go into your brain. Where you had it, the most you were going to get was a little sore from the mobilization, but it was going to free up and help that ankle to move normally. And absolutely those are great places for mobilization, not manipulation. So when you do a manip, again, you’re just trying to down-regulate the pain. When you do a mob, with a stretch under traction, you can really get some of that restrictive tissue that we could see at autopsy. Yes, there is restrictive tissue in there. You can get that stretched out and restore a really good motion without ever putting you in danger. Your therapist never would have done that if the bone wasn’t fully healed, okay, and that’s the key. The bone’s got to be fully healed to take that kind of pressure. And I’m sure you remember, there was way more than just a pound of pressure she was using on you – or your PT was using on you, right?

18:44
Dr. Maya Novak:
Definitely.

18:43
Tom Ockler:
Does that make sense? That’s the difference.

18:48
Dr. Maya Novak:
Yes, that makes a lot of sense. You mentioned clicking during the recovery, and I’m getting many questions about it. A lot of people that find me, they find me through my ankle recovery story, so there are a lot of ankle injuries.

19:06
Tom Ockler:
Oh yeah.

19:07
Dr. Maya Novak:
The most common question is, is that popping okay? Am I doing something wrong? So if someone is experiencing – after a fracture or after a long recovery – some popping in their joints, it doesn’t matter where, is this normal?

19:24
Tom Ockler:
It is normal. In fact, I can crack my knuckles right now. I didn’t have anything wrong with my knuckles but they will crack. When you distract a joint and move it so it pops, it’s taking nitrogen out of the bloodstream and putting it into a gaseous state. It goes in because it’s negative pressure. When I pop, it’s negative pressure. That gaseous state expands the capsule of the joint and stimulates the joint to perceive as though it’s been traumatized and it produces the body’s own natural opioids, the body’s own painkiller, but it is temporary. We tell people if you’re constantly cracking your knuckles or you’re actually going to loosen the joints and that’s not good. You need a certain amount of stability. That’s another thing that’s not such a great idea about going in for manipulations whether you’ve got pain or not. Some people just keep going for the manipulations or cracking their own neck. What you create is an unstable environment where those structures, which were designed to stabilize, can’t stabilize. They’re stretched out too much because you’re constantly whacking them and cracking them. So we try to encourage people who say but it feels good, and I feel like I need to do it. We teach them how to stabilize. We teach them how to learn to use those muscles again. Once again, it’s way safer than going and cracking your own neck.

20:51
Dr. Maya Novak:
Yes, true. Your approach is also different in another way – I mean, of course, my physical therapist when I had this fracture, she was looking at my x-rays. However, before or after, with whoever I worked with in regards to either physical therapies or osteopaths or whoever, they never ever asked me for x-rays. Your approach is completely different. You first ask your patients for x-rays to check what is actually happening, to see what is happening, is that correct?

21:26
Tom Ockler:
No, actually it’s not.

21:27
Dr. Maya Novak:
Okay.

21:28
Tom Ockler:
I had asked to see your x-rays and we had talked about some of your other issues that were kind of dragging on here, but typically the patient doesn’t come in with x-rays. If I need an x-ray or an MRI I’ll talk to the patient and talk to the doctor and say I think I’ve got some red flags here, I want to know what’s going on. Most of the time it’s all done with my hands through palpation. I can tell what I need by palpating the patient. Now, you raised a good point. Many times when you go to somebody who manipulates for a living, they do an x-ray and they tell they’re doing an x-ray to check for alignment. Well, I’m sorry, I’ve got to disagree there because a good clinician uses these to check the alignment. They use their eyes, their brain, and their hands. What they’re looking for in the spine is something called the spondylosis or spondylolisthesis. What it means is a defect in the bone, in particular, the pars interarticularis of the bone, which means that that bone may be inherently broken but the patient may not have any symptoms. Then you take a bone that’s defective and you crack on it and guess what, you create a spondylolisthesis where there was not one. You break the back basically. This is another reason why people who do manipulate if they’re smart, they will get an x-ray but they never share it. We’re looking for a bone that’s already broken so we don’t break it further. They might then choose to use another technique. But typically, I don’t ask for x-rays unless I get a red flag that says I don’t like what I’m finding here with my palpation.

23:02
Dr. Maya Novak:
Yes, and this is important so that you actually know what is happening with a patient.

23:06
Tom Ockler:
Yes, absolutely.

23:07
Dr. Maya Novak:
So can we talk a bit about trigger points?

23:09
Tom Ockler:
Yes.

23:11
Dr. Maya Novak:
So a year or two years ago I was super interested in trigger points and I was blown away with how much there is to know, and how much I did not know. That the pain that I’m experiencing somewhere, that the cause can be completely elsewhere.

23:31
Tom Ockler:
Yes.

23:32
Dr. Maya Novak:
Please explain what trigger points are.

23:35
Tom Ockler:
Okay. Trigger points are an area of tissue on your body that are hypersensitive. Now there’s a regular trigger point and a latent trigger point. A regular trigger point, it’s just painful even if you’re not poking on it. A latent trigger point only hurts when you poke on it, or sit on it, or are leaning up against something. That’s more latent. What happens is there’s a group of muscles or a muscle bundle that, for some reason, got too much tone built into the muscle spindle. There’s a little computer chip, for lack of a better term, that reads how much tension is necessary. Well, sometimes it gets bad information, it slips, falls, overuse, postural problems, trauma, and the muscle tightens up to try and protect that area. Then if it doesn’t get released appropriately with the proper neuromuscular technique, it continues to tighten up. As it does so, it draws more muscle fibers into it so you get a bigger, more painful trigger point. The release of the trigger point - there’s several ways of doing it – the most painful one is what we call an ischemic release, and it’s really not ischemic at all, but that’s what we’ve called it. You put like an elbow on the upper trapezius, or you have the person sit on a tennis ball. You may have tried that before. It hurts really bad, but neurologically it gets the muscle spindle to give up and it lets the muscle go back to factory settings, okay. There’s another technique called spray and stretch and almost no one uses it anymore. You spray a topical refrigerant - a very fine line topical refrigerant on there – and what it does is confuse the muscle spindle while you stretch. That works, but almost nobody uses because they started restricting the availability of the substance. But you’d see, for instance, on a track team if somebody like a high-level athlete tore a hamstring, or got a really bad cramp in the hamstring, they put them in a wheelbarrow and they’d stretch the hamstring, and they’d spray this stuff on the leg to keep the muscles from tightening up. Those are ways to get rid of those trigger points. How a trigger point in the hip will refer pain down your leg is a bit of mystery. They think it’s because the nerve that innervates that trigger point will also innervate other structures and the brain can’t tell the difference. So, for instance, if you have somebody who’s got a lot of tightness in their jaw, they may get headaches up in here even though the jaw is not up in this area. People who get upper trapezius trigger points, very common, can get migraine headaches and it’s really the problem is not in the head. The problem is coming from this over tight, over triggered muscles because of too much driving or too much typing, or stress, or whatever. So when you put pressure on them, they oh yeah, that really hurts. But if you hold the pressure and they can tolerate it, it’ll improve. Using muscle energy or strain counter-strain you can get rid of it a lot more kinder and gentler. But yeah, that’s what a trigger point does. It refers pain to places the nerve goes, even though that muscle might be in a completely distant location from it.

27:02
Dr. Maya Novak:
Mm-mm. I think that you already answered this in your answer, but as much I understand trigger points, stretching is not enough. It’s not like oh, I’m going to stretch my muscle, and then this is going to resolve everything.

27:16
Tom Ockler:
You’re correct, Maya. People will feel it hurts good when you stretch a trigger point, but it doesn’t last because you’re stretching the contractile tissue and the problem may be already into the connective tissue. That’s why you’ve got to do something a little more aggressively or appropriate to get it done. But yes, stretching is a great idea and they say yeah, if I don’t stretch I’m in real trouble, but it never completely gets rid of it. That’s where you’ve got to go somebody who is neuromuscular based to actually fix the problem.

27:48
Dr. Maya Novak:
Mm-mm.

27:51
Tom Ockler:
And all I’m saying is that problem could be within the muscle, or the problem could be because there is a boney asymmetry that needs to be corrected.

28:02
Dr. Maya Novak:
Okay.

28:02
Tom Ockler:
Okay, and you have to find that. It may be the neck, but we may find that the pelvis is off down the way and all of a sudden you sit crooked and that causes overuse of the muscle and then we could treat this, but the driver for it is way down by your pelvis. You’ve got to get somebody who looks at that stuff, or your fix is going to be good, but temporary. We don’t like temporary. We want done.

28:27
Dr. Maya Novak:
Absolutely. This is something that you mentioned before with manipulations, but you mentioned compensation. So if we are talking about injuries, which of course we are, especially with serious injuries there can be some compensation – and there usually is, especially at the beginning. You are favoring one leg or one arm or anything like that.

28:54
Tom Ockler:
Yeah.

28:55
Dr. Maya Novak:
So can compensation then cause trigger points, and is it then necessary to find someone else, or is this something that can be resolved with the physical therapist that people are already seeing?

29:09
Tom Ockler:
If the therapist knows how to do it. In other words, if they’ve had appropriate practice and appropriate coursework, yeah they can do it. There’s just very few of us there. You mentioned compensation. One of the most common things people tell me is oh, I’ve had a short leg on one side for years. I go well, I’m going to fix that right now. They look at me kind of funny, you’re going to fix it? I go yeah, the bones aren’t different lengths, the place where the bones start at is not right. So if I’ve got hips that are supposed to be here, but because the pelvis slips a little bit, I’ve got a hip here. That’s going to make this leg behave shorter. It’s not shorter, it behaves shorter, that throws you on a tilt, and that will cause certain muscles to overuse and other muscles to get weak and stupid. They forget what they’re supposed to do, which further creates the problem. So not only have we got to fix that but then we’ve got to teach the muscles to chill a little bit and relax and get the muscles that have been snoozing to start to do their job again. If you can’t – if you don’t look at all of those issues – the problem is going to come back or they’re going to get a temporary result that’s not as good.

30:19
Dr. Maya Novak:
We'll continue in just a moment. I wanted to quickly jump in for two things. First, thank you for tuning in. And second, I’m sure you have at least one friend, colleague, or family member who would very much appreciate this episode. So share it with them and help us spread the word. Now let’s continue…

30:41
Tom Ockler:
But yeah, we compensate. We’re compensating animals. Here’s a good example – you sprain your ankle. It takes about six and a half weeks clinically for an ankle sprain to go back to normal. So if we couldn’t adapt, we would stand motionless for six and a half weeks until that ankle was better and then we’d take off on it. Well, nobody does that. We limp. Right, you know. You know what limping’s all about. When you limp, you have to create an adaptation somewhere else in your body. Now hopefully that adaptation doesn’t come back to haunt you or you can find somebody who can fix it. But for some people who have had this compensation, they’re in a world of hurt. One of the best examples is when somebody fractures an ankle they put them in a boot. They put them in a protective boot, but that protective boot has a heel on it like that. So now, you’re walking around with a real long leg on one side and a real short leg on the other, and that’s going to cause problems. There’s just no two ways about it. So absolutely, we do compensate and it’s that compensation that makes us not stop in our tracks, but keep moving because we have jobs to go to, and places to travel and things to do. We don’t stop dead. We keep moving, but we adapt. Sometimes you get to a point where the body cannot adapt anymore and it usually happens the older you get. I call that the homeostatic brick. In other words, all of a sudden there’s no adapting. You’re like a piece of cement and you’ve got to get something done because you attempted to adapt and then the adaptation there won’t work anymore so you had to do another adaptation to keep moving. Eventually, there’s no more room to adapt and boom, you are in a world of hurt.

32:24
Dr. Maya Novak:
Yes, and we’re going to absolutely talk about pain, but before we do that… There is not a lot of talk about trigger points. Why do you think that they’re so neglected by medicine?

32:38
Tom Ockler:
Well, the neglecting is partly because you really have to spend time working with people and when you spend time working with people you’ve got to look for these things, and most people aren’t trained to do that. So when people come to a therapist and the therapist doesn’t know how to get rid of them, they just kind of gloss over them. Medicine can inject them. They can put some sort of a Marcaine or they can put lidocaine or some anesthesia in it and it’s really nice, it really works but then when that wears off, the trigger point is back again. So many times, our medical system is so bent on getting you on the conveyor belt and getting you off of the conveyor belt, that they don’t take the time for these things. And that’s probably why they tend to be more overlooked. They represent an adaptive change that very few people know how to rid of, and so they gloss over it. That would be my best reason, that nobody really addresses them in the hierarchy of medicine.

33:38
Dr. Maya Novak:
Mm-mm. Talking about pain and what you explained at the beginning, that after three and half years of chronic pain, everything was gone in one day. I can so relate to that because I lived with chronic pain for seven or eight months, but I went through something different with my life and I was trying to figure out why that pain was there and when I figured it out it was gone in 24 hours. So I know how powerful that can be. You, of course, use a different kind of approach to pain. Can you explain what this is?

34:15
Tom Ockler:
Well, pain is multi-disciplinary. If you take a look at statistics from 1990, one in seven people worldwide were in what we could call chronic pain. In other words, pain that lasts more than three months. After three months the body should be pretty well healed. Tissue heals in three months. If your pain lasts longer than three months, something’s the matter, all right. In 1990, one in seven people worldwide had chronic pain. Twenty years later, Maya, this is staggering – one in four people are in chronic pain. That’s a 73% increase in 20 years. Now, from 1990 to 2010 and now, looking at the year 2022 – now we’re down to 12 years – one in three people will be – and this is Stanford University, they’ve done all the math on this and they projected out one in three people worldwide are in chronic pain. What are we missing here? We’re still treating the part of the body that says I’m hurting, I’m hurting, I’m hurting. We’re throwing opioids at it. We’re stretching it. We’re doing some heat. We’re doing some rudimentary achievements, but it’s still getting worse. What we’re missing is what’s called central desensitization. The brain has not gotten the message to let go of the pain signal. A perfect example yesterday in the New York Times – now we’re talking really current. Yesterday in the New York Times there was an article about a woman 71 years old who has never had any pain. They thought she was kidding because when she went through childbirth she knew something was happening but she said it wasn’t particularly painful so she would tell her girlfriends oh, it’s fine, it’s easy, and they would scream their heads off and say are you out of your mind. Well, they finally figured out something. She’s missing a gene that helps express pain. The fascinating part of it was – and they’re now going to use her for research to see if they can come up with some way to make a gene so people don’t feel pain, she never experienced anxiety. What does that tell you? That pain and anxiety, and anxiety and fear are part of that same neurological evolutionary pathway that gives us discomfort or what you and I would call pain. Now, if we can go back to caveman times, if you were a caveman and you broke your leg I’ll bet you that hurt. It hurt for one primary reason – to warn you that you are a sitting duck. You are vulnerable to a predator, or to an attacker and you better do something to get to high ground, surround yourself with people with rocks and sticks who can keep you alive, otherwise you’re going to die. The message it uses to tell you that you’re in trouble and that you’re in danger, you and I and the rest of the world call pain. Now this has been worked out by some tremendous researchers, Moseley & Butler and they’re Aussies, I think. They’ve figured out that what you and I call a pain signal is a danger signal. It might surprise you to know that we don’t have any pain receptors in our body. We have noci receptors. Noci’s literal translation is danger. So when your body is in danger of survival you, or your gene pool, you get a message that’s unpleasant and you and I call that message pain. Okay. Now, if you take that danger and fear are the true drivers behind the pain signal, it makes perfect sense why this lady had never experienced any fear or anxiety through her entire life and she also never had any pain. They’re linked. They’re just totally linked together on the same neurological pathway. Therefore, if you can do a technique that goes after that fear that I’m in danger and eliminate that, the pain level drops down below the radar. You don’t even feel it yet. Okay. So in that approach that I do that has a musculoskeletal top to bottom, looking at the pelvis, making sure the sacrum is lined up, and the neck and the shoulders and doing it all very safe neurologically, we also have to take the patient who’s not responding. They should be responding. They look perfectly normal, but they’re in horrid pain. Now you’ve got to start asking questions. What happened? What happened to you at or around the time of your injury? What message were you told by the doctor? What message were you told by your family members, or your spouse, or your boss, or whatever, that made you feel vulnerable and that you might not survive? Unfortunately, we get a lot of those messages in medicine that we shouldn’t be getting, and you’re a perfect example, okay.

39:16
Dr. Maya Novak:
Tom, I love this. This so resonates and this anxiety-fear-pain connection and what I explained before – my chronic pain that was gone in 24 hours is because I figured out that it was connected to fear.

39:32
Tom Ockler:
Yes.

39:32
Dr. Maya Novak:
To fear in regards to my life, it was just incredible. And what you are talking about here, the danger. This truly is a dangerous time when we are recovering, especially from serious injuries when the recovery is not just two or three weeks, but months.

39:54
Tom Ockler:
Mm-mm, and the problem is the only thing that medicine, Western medicine anyways, can throw at it are painkillers. All the studies – I talk about this in my books, I talk about this in my lectures, all the studies show that the efficacy, the effectiveness of the opioid goes down the longer you give them to the patient. So three months after you started giving them opioids they’re still in pain, but the opioids you’re giving them are not working. Yet the person then becomes addicted to the opioid and they think they’re taking it because of pain. They’re not taking it because of pain, they’re taking it because of their addiction. It’s frightening. It makes the pain come back. Whereas we really need to use – you know the technique I’m talking about – to get rid of that fear signal and you can make tremendous changes in people. I mean literally lifelong pain that you can get rid of in five to ten minutes using this technique that you and I both know called the EFT. So when you incorporate that – now, I’m old enough to remember a time when dentists did not use Novocain or did not use anything. You went in there, they held you in a headlock, and they started drilling, right. Well, I was in College, I didn’t have a lot of money, I went to the dentist for my checkup, and he pulls the needle out and said would you like some Novocain. I said we can’t afford it – I can’t afford it. Okay, he puts the needle away. Forty-five minutes and he’s still drilling away. I’m just pulling up the Naugahyde on the chair and I’m in agony, and his waiting room is filling up with people. He’s getting behind. So he pulls the needle out again, and I’m trying to tell him with a wad of cotton in my mouth – and he goes it’s on the house. He gives it to me and finishes with me in three minutes. Now, unless you’re allergic to it, they just give it to you. That’s Novocain. Imagine using emotional Novocain when treating a chronic pain patient. Not only with the structural approach that I use, but being able to go to that patient and say some of this is coming from here. You’re not crazy. It’s all in your head, but guess what, it is all in our head because that’s where we process fear and danger and pain and anxiety. If I can get that to calm down, imagine how much easier time, like the dentist found out, they were going to have to work on a complicated problem. It just makes perfect sense.

42:19
Dr. Maya Novak:
I love this. I’m a huge fan of tapping. Honestly, I don’t use it as regularly – I’m using a lot of writing, my journaling, and everything.

42:31
Tom Ockler:
Okay.

42:32
Dr. Maya Novak:
But yes, I love EFT. So do you – when the patient comes to you – do you teach them EFT? Do you send them to some resources? How do you approach this?

42:42
Tom Ockler:
It really depends on the patient. For instance, if I’m treating somebody and I know their symptoms are way worse than what I would expect to see with objective findings – because my hands are all over them. I’m looking for bony landmarks. When I don’t see a horrible problem but I’m hearing back from the patient all this terrible pain, you can kind of tell by looking at somebody that what’s coming off of them is too much, it’s too much pain. I start to introduce them to the concept. One of the questions I might ask them is have you ever had like a really, really bad emotional trauma? Or tell me what you were thinking at the time you got injured. Was it because – were you attacked, where you beat up? I mean that’s horrible. Many times, that fear of being beaten up again lives in your system. You take kids who are abused physically, emotionally and sexually, there is no worse horrible feeling of helplessness in the world than going through that. That can carry over to a simple injury. Here’s an example. Let’s say the first time I sprained my ankle, I was in a horrible motorcycle accident. Now, that’s not me but let’s say I was in a horrible motorcycle accident and in addition to spraining my ankle I punctured a lung, broke my femur and ended up with a pneumothorax and I was in the hospital for almost 12 days, okay. So here we move on multiple years later, I’m playing volleyball and I sprain my ankle again. The odds are – because I had a near death experience with the first time I sprained my ankle in the motorcycle accident – the odds are that ankle sprain is going to hurt me way more than it should have. So when the pain doesn’t match the dysfunction, I instantly start to think what’s going on up here in their mind. I wrote a couple of pages in every one of my muscle energy manuals, it’s called the non-traumatic model for somatic dysfunction. How what you’re thinking about at the time of your injury or through a trauma that happened previous, what you think of yourself and your worthiness to heal, has so much more to do with your ability to get back to normal than almost all the practitioners who are going to get involved. Because if your brain thinks you don’t deserve to heal, or if you’re constantly in fear, that pain is not going to go away. So I have to address those things. Do I use it on everybody? No. Do I use it some people? Yes. Sometimes, Maya, people just come to me for fears, phobias, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, guilt, shame, I’m not good enough – all the negative human emotions, plus addictions and plus chronic pain. So I always do checks to see is there a real honest to goodness true organic reason for the pain, and I go after that and do my best. But when I think it’s centrally sensitized, you’ve got a limbic system that’s working way too well, then I’ll bring out the EFT. I will teach the patient how to do it themselves, I’ll answer their questions about it. Speaking of veterans – I treat veterans for free. I will never charge a veteran from a war to deal with their post-traumatic stress. Almost always their pain is attached to that post-traumatic stress. So these people are literally a pain machine because of the horrors that they experienced during their war.

46:18
Dr. Maya Novak:
This is exactly why we are here because injury recovery, it’s not just the physical part...

46:25
Tom Ockler:
Right.

46:25
Dr. Maya Novak:
It’s not just learning the exercises and then waiting a bit. It’s really an emotional, mental, spiritual journey and if we forget about these areas, we actually – well this is what I believe in my experience – we cannot heal completely or in the best possible way because we are focusing just on one thing. Just on exercises, for example.

46:47
Tom Ockler:
Right. There are some people who do very well with that, and that’s great. But having this extra skillset for the worst of the worst. I jokingly tell people I have a resort practice in Ohio and they go that’s not a resort, Ohio. And I go no, people come to me as a last resort. I get people from all over the world that nobody else can figure this stuff. It’s because you throw that extra layer of thinking on top of their problem and you can make huge dents in these people’s chronic pain, get them off of their opioids or whatever, just by folding in that one extra little paradigm to something that I do that’s already kind of unusual to begin with. When I discovered it quite by accident I was kind of rolling through the internet and I discovered it one night. I went oh, I wonder how this would work. I began incorporating it into my practice and I was like oh my goodness, it’s scary how well this works. But it really gave me a full justifiable understanding for really looking into a patient’s brain. That sounds very spooky when you say it, but really looking into what was the foundation of this person’s feeling of self that caused this pain not to go away. Now, the doctor didn’t leave his scissors inside of you, you don’t have any more infection, all that stuff is done yet you still believe that you’re in danger. There, you get rid of that. Well, one of the reasons that anxiolytics work, what BuSpar, Prozac, Paxil, they put people on anti-anxiety medication to help them with their pain. How come? For the same reason that the lady who’s never experienced pain has also never experienced anxiety – they’re linked. We need to address that and hopefully without medication. We need to address that.

48:42
Dr. Maya Novak:
I love this. I really love this. So talking about Emotional Freedom Technique and what you mostly use, there is also another approach to EFT and this is the Choices Method.

48:56
Tom Ockler:
Yeah.

48:56
Dr. Maya Novak:
Can you explain what the difference is and how this works?

49:01
Tom Ockler:
Sure, Patricia Carrington, who is a psychologist, a Ph.D., she ran into a problem in the beginning years of EFT where people had a belief system that was so strong they couldn’t get over their belief. She came up with this thing called the Choices Method. Now, in EFT we always tap on the negative. If you’re afraid of spiders, we tap on I’m afraid of spiders, I’m afraid of spiders, I’m afraid of spiders. If you use the Choices Method you fold a positive statement into that, and here’s the way it would go. I would go one round of “I’m afraid of spiders, I’m afraid of spiders, I’m afraid of spiders”, tapping all the points. But you would go instantly into the next round going “I choose” – there’s the choice, the positive choice, it empowers people when they make a choice – “I choose to be fearless when I see a spider, I choose to be fearless when I see a spider, I choose to be fearless …” and they hit all the points with the choice. Then you go right into the third round and it’s “I’m afraid of spiders, I choose to be fearless when I see a spider. I’m afraid of spiders …” so you’re going back and forth and back and forth and trying always to end on that positive choice. What they found is people had such fear, that it literally dictated their belief system, all right. Well, that works with pain because if you’ve got somebody in chronic pain and you use the EFT right on the pain, you’d say “Even though I have this searing pain down the back of my left leg, I love and accept myself”. You do it three times and then you go “The searing pain down the back of my left leg. The searing pain down the back of my left leg. The searing pain down the back of my …” You hit all the points. But then if you instantly say “I choose to look forward to the day when I no longer have pain my left leg. I choose to look forward to the day …” You’re just changing their whole paradigm of looking at their pain as hopelessness. You’re saying no, I look forward to that day when I don’t have pain. I look forward to that day when I don’t have pain. I look forward … you change their belief. Then the last one is “This searing pain down the back of my leg, I look forward to the day when I don’t have that pain down my leg. This searing pain down the back of my leg, I look forward to that day when I don’t have that pain down my leg” and tap all those points back and forth and back and forth. It changes the belief, it changes the paradigm and that’s done when I’ve got a really, really stubborn case that won’t budge. Most of the time it’ll budge with the standard tapping on the pain. Every once and a while I have to go change somebody’s mind and really change their belief system. You can use that for fear, and you can use that for addictions, and the like. So it just makes perfect sense when you’re working with these really hard cases, and I tend to draw in the hard cases.

54:53
Dr. Maya Novak:
So can we do a tapping session on, let’s say, a stubborn pain that doesn’t want to go away, and maybe we can do it with a regular EFT – or maybe we can also do it in combination with the Choices Method?

55:09
Tom Ockler:
Excellent. Excellent, because what I usually like to do is try the regular one first and if it helps but doesn’t help as much as I want, I’ll go ahead and say let’s do the choices method. Okay, are you going to be my painful subject?

55:21
Dr. Maya Novak:
I’m going to be.

55:23
Tom Ockler:
Okay. All right. Good. Let’s say you had a very sharp pain in your hip that was going down the back of your leg, all right, we’ll set this up. And let’s say that they’ve done all sorts of tests and nobody knows what’s going on and it’s lasted for more than three months, and you’re getting a little frustrated with the whole thing. Let’s also say they can’t figure it out. So I would take a patient like that, Maya. I’ll have you repeat what I’m going to say, okay.

55:53
Dr. Maya Novak:
Yes.

55:54
Tom Ockler:
Now, I’m going to tip my computer a little bit because I’ll have to tap on my chest. So I may have to tip it down just a little bit. I’ll go like this so you can see me tapping my chest when I get ready to do that part. Okay. I’ll describe it as we go as well. So what I’m going to have you do is start tapping right here and you’re going to say “Even though”
I have this sharp pain
That goes into my butt and down the back of my left leg
Okay. I love and accept myself.
Even though I have this sharp pain that goes into my butt
And into my leg
I love and accept myself.
And even though I have this sharp pain
That goes into my butt
And down my leg
I love and accept myself

56:56
Tom Ockler:
Now we get rid of even though, we get rid of I love and accept myself, and we merely state the body of the sentence which was “This sharp pain that goes into my butt and down my leg”. And you’re going to start by tapping right where your eyebrow begins. So you say this sharp pain that goes into my butt and down my leg.
This sharp pain
That goes into my butt
And down my leg
This sharp pain
Keep going.
Keep going. This sharp pain.
This sharp pain
Right where the clavicle – yeah, perfect, right. That’s called the sternum clavicular joint. This sharp pain.
That goes into my butt
The middle of the sternum. This sharp pain.
That goes into my butt.
Now, right in the line with your armpit, right where a bra strap would cross you just tap it. This sharp pain.
That goes into my butt
And down my leg
And about an inch under the nipple is a rib and it’s pretty much like where the underwire of a bra would be, so on me, it’s like right here, so this sharp pain.
That goes into my butt.
And down my leg.
Now, where the thumbnail and the flesh come together that would be facing the ceiling in a handshake, right there, you tap it. This sharp pain.
That goes into my butt and down my leg.
The same place, next finger. This sharp pain.
That goes into my butt.
And down my leg.
This sharp pain that goes into my butt
Skip this finger, go to the baby finger. This sharp pain
That goes into my butt
Karate chop. The sharp pain
That goes into my butt
And down my leg
Clap your wrists like you might rub perfume together. This sharp pain.
That goes into my butt
And down my leg
And now the top of the head, the crown chakra. This sharp pain.
That goes into my butt.
And down my leg.

59:36
Tom Ockler:
Perfect. Then what I would do is go back and say, Maya, describe that pain to me again. If you say well, it’s still there but it’s kind of more like a dull drawing sensation, all we would do is change the words. So I would say “Even though I have this dull drawing sensation in my left leg, I love and accept myself”. And I’d do it three times in a row. Then, this dull drawing sensation that goes down my leg. This dull drawing sensation that goes down my leg. This dull drawing sensation … I’d hit all those points. I’d go back and say what does that feel like now? Almost always, you can get it almost gone or totally gone if it’s stuck in your nervous system, okay?

01:00:21
Dr. Maya Novak:
Yes. So what about with the Choices Method?

01:00:24
Tom Ockler:
Okay, the Choices Method would be used for somebody who’d been in pain for so long that they believe they wouldn’t ever get out of pain - the hopelessness, okay. All I would do is I would sit there and I would work out a sentence or two with them, and then we’d fold it into the choices method. Remember, the Choices Method is used when you want to change someone’s belief. Whereas everything else in EFT is always using the negative, the negative, the negative statement. With the Choices Method we through a little bit of positive choice in there for the express purpose of changing a belief. In this case, the belief that this is hopeless, that I’ll never be pain-free. Okay. So let’s try it for that pain that’s in your butt and down your leg and we’ll modify it as we go. So I will say “Even though”.
I have this pain.
That’s in my butt and my leg.
And it never seems to go away.
And I’m feeling hopeless
I love and accept myself
And I choose
To look forward to the day
When I am pain-free
And we’d do that three times in a row. So let’s do it again. Even though.
I have this pain
In my butt and my leg
And it never seems to go away
And I’m feeling hopeless that I’ll always be in pain
I love and accept myself
One more time. And I choose.
To look forward to the day
When I am pain-free
We do it one more time. Even though.
I have this pain in my butt and my leg.
And I’m feeling hopeless it’ll never go away
I love and accept myself
And I choose to look forward to the day
When I am finally pain-free
Now, we go up to the tapping points and you don’t use the “even though”, and you don’t use “I love and accept myself”. You do a whole round of the negative. This pain in my butt and leg.
That I feel hopeless will never go away.
This pain in my butt and leg
That I feel hopeless will never go away
This pain in my butt and leg
That I feel hopeless will never go away
This pain in my butt and leg
That I feel hopeless will never go away
Keep going. This pain
Mid sternum. This pain in my butt and leg
That I feel hopeless will never go away
This pain in my butt and leg
That I feel hopeless will never go away
About an inch under there, right where the underwire is. This pain in my butt and leg.
That I feel hopeless will never go away
Now we’re going to go to the positive choice. We’re going to go I choose to look forward to the day
When I am pain-free
I choose to look forward to the day
When I am pain-free
I choose to look forward to the day
When I am pain-free
I choose
To the day
I choose to look forward
To the day when I am pain-free
Mid sternum. I choose to look forward.
to the day when I am pain-free
I choose to look forward to the day
When I am pain-free
I choose to look forward to the day
When I am pain-free
We right into the last round, which goes back and forth between the positive and the negative. This pain in my leg and butt.
And I’m hopeless that it will ever go away
I choose to look forward to the day
When I am pain-free
This hopeless pain in my leg and butt
I choose to look forward to the day
When I am pain-free
I have this hopeless pain in my leg and my butt
I choose to look forward
To the day I am pain-free
This hopeless pain in my leg and my butt
I choose to look forward
To the day I am pain-free
This hopeless pain
In my leg and my butt
I choose to look forward to the day
That I am pain-free

01:06:32
Tom Ockler:
Beautiful. Now, we do that so that the person doesn’t have hopelessness. Hopelessness is a horrid driver to pain. It escalates the pain - hopeless, despair, all of those negative emotions. When you can pull those out of the formula and then you say to the person describe that pain to me now. If they mention to you that it has budged or changed or gone away, that’s great. You just keep doing that sequence until the pain is either manageable and many times it’s just completely gone. Because as we talked about before, it’s literally stuck in the limbic system of the brain and the brain hasn’t figured out that it’s okay to let go of it and that you’re safe to let go of it, okay.

01:07:17
Dr. Maya Novak:
Yeah, and I love this choose thing.

01:07:22
Tom Ockler:
Yes.

01:07:22
Dr. Maya Novak:
I love three words – I choose, I allow, and I am willing to – because it really gives you the power that you are doing something.

01:07:32
Tom Ockler:
Yeah, because there’s so much powerlessness - as you know from your injury – there’s just so much powerlessness when somebody’s who’s maybe medically smarter than you says you’re never going to run again, yeah good luck with that, you ran a couple of marathons, you’re never going to walk normally again – baloney. There’s a book of nevers, and I just don’t bother to read that book because they don’t know.

01:07:54
Dr. Maya Novak:
Yeah, true. So why do you think that this simple and powerful technique that EFT is – why do you think that it isn’t used more in mainstream medicine?

01:08:07
Tom Ockler:
Okay. First, I’ll go to mainstream medicine’s problem. Mainstream medicine has a problem spending time one-on-one with a patient. They’ve got x amount of time to spend with you. Your time is up, I’ve got to move on. All right. So what we just did there, what you and I just did, literally only took 10 to 15 minutes but for many people, that’s too much time. It’s much easier to give drugs. It’s much easier to say here’s a prescription, go maybe to physical therapy. It’s so easy. But the other thing is, it’s not very profitable. You can make a lot more money giving drugs. You can make a lot more money for physical therapy when they treat you. And it’s still considered the appropriate treatment to give drugs and to give therapy, or surgery or whatever. So, I coined a new term called “profular”. It’s profitable and popular. In other words, as long as it is acceptable treatment and it makes money, why mess with a good thing, okay. Now, from a standpoint of a psychologist who probably makes between a $100-$125 an hour listening to a person’s problems, and that person basically gets tied to their hip for the rest of their life, always needing help, always needing help. What would be the incentive to give the person the exact tool they need that they only need to use once or twice and then they don’t need the psychologist anymore. A lot of people consider therapy job security because you keep going and you keep going and you keep going and you keep going. When it comes to chronic pain, there’s an awful lot of that stuff folded in. So if I could take you and say I don’t want to see you again. I want you to take care of yourself and here’s the tool you’re going to do it with. People like you and me say that’s fantastic, I’ll make my living by them sending me other people. But medicine doesn’t think that way. Medicine thinks short-term, income, and they really don’t worry about empowering the patient to cure themselves. If the patient cures themselves, they’ve lost a customer. I know that sounds harsh, but boy, in the States that’s probably one of the real reasons it’s going on. Now, that’s the medical problem. Now, the other problem I have is with the history of EFT. For years and years after EFT was first discovered, they made this assumption that it had to do with an energy shift around the body, these energy meridians got shifted during the trauma and depending on what was going on in the patient’s mind, they go so shifted that it just caused the problem to continue and continue on. At the time, that’s all they had to go on because there was no way to prove it. In 2001, someone invented something called a functional MRI machine. A functional MRI machine measures oxygen consumption in the brain. So if I show you something frightening, a certain part of your brain changes color because you’re frightened and it shows up on the screen. What they found out is these 17 acupuncture points, when you stimulate them, reduce oxygen consumption in the brain. It is a direct stimulus through the cutaneous sensory nerves that just those particular 17 points have way better representation than what we’ll call sham points because the sham points wouldn’t do anything. But these particular points, when you tapped them, decreased the oxygen consumption almost down to baseline in this part of the brain we call the amygdala, the hippocampus, the medial prefrontal cortex. For pain, it’s the dorsal anterior singular cortex. But in any event, when you tap these points, they watched on the MRI - they watched the oxygen consumption going down. So there’s an explanation right there that they didn’t have available to them. The other problem with the explanation of energy shift is, unfortunately, we do not possess a device that can scientifically measure the energy field outside the body. I can measure EKGs, EEGs, EMGs, and all that stuff that’s within the body. But when it comes to what is out here around the body, we can’t measure it reproducibly. So how could say it was shifting if you can’t measure it. Now, I’m not saying it doesn’t happen that way but we can’t prove it. So from a scientific standpoint, I think the people who are in charge of EFT may be doing a disservice by not getting more and more people to go oh, well here’s the explanation for it. Even though we held on to this explanation for a long time, we just can’t prove it so let’s move to a different explanation. It’s so easy, that if you take black paint – and black paint is your pain, your negative emotions, your guilt, your shame, your I’m not good enough, your post-traumatic stress, all the negative emotions – black paint. Then I take a can of white paint. White paint is non-threatening, okay. If I mix the non-threatening with the threatening, with the negative emotions and I shake them up, I’m going to get gray paint. Are you with me?

01:13:36
Dr. Maya Novak:
Yes.

01:13:36
Tom Ockler:
Gray paint is less black, okay. If I throw more white paint into the gray paint and shake it up, I’m going to get even lighter gray paint. If I do it again, I’m going to get almost white paint. This is exactly what happens in the limbic system of your brain. You’re talking about – remember I had you talk about your pain, describe your pain, describe the hopelessness. At the same time, your brain was feeling that’s not threatening, that’s not threatening, I feel totally safe, that doesn’t threaten me in the slightest. No, I’m totally safe here, this doesn’t threaten me. I could do it all day, it doesn’t bother me. You hit all those points at the same time you’re talking about and thinking about and speaking about experiencing the negative emotion or the pain. The brain doesn’t know the difference. It merely knows I’m mixing danger and non-danger. What you end up with is less danger. Our brains experience danger and warn us with a sensation that you and I and the rest of the world call pain. I think they would be doing the world a great service if they would just finally come out and say all right, here’s a better explanation. Because medicine can grab a hold of that explanation. Whereas in higher medical research circles, you start talking about energy fields, they just roll their eyes and say yeah, good luck with that.

01:14:56
Dr. Maya Novak:
For now. Who knows, you know. I mean let’s just wait, because this, I’m absolutely sure that one day it’s going to be mainstream because we cannot go backward. We only can go forwards.

01:15:08
Tom Ockler:
Yes, I totally agree. Absolutely.

01:15:11
Dr. Maya Novak:
So what is your number one advice that you would give someone is injured right now and recovering from this physical thing?

01:15:19
Tom Ockler:
Well, you need to find – don’t give up hope, first of all. If they’re stressed about nobody’s paying attention to them or whatever, you’ve got to get online. Fortunately, we have this wonderful source called the internet. The internet can help you to find – a lot of people come to see me – they find me on videos. You kind of found me that way. You find a practitioner that seems to resonate with you, all right. That you feel comfortable with. What you have to do is find somebody who has the skill level to do something different. If you’ve been doing the same thing for three years and it hasn’t been getting you better, I’m sorry, you’re an idiot, you need to find somebody who does something different. I mean to say they’re an idiot – but if you keep doing the same thing over and over again, don’t expect a different outcome. Find somebody who does something different. Make sure that what they’re doing is safe. Learn about the difference between safe treatments – or not treatments, what we talked about earlier with manipulation and non-manipulative therapy – and find somebody that you feel comfortable with. If you can find somebody who does EFT and incorporates that into the treatment, even better. You create an environment for healing that you may not have had before.

01:16:33
Dr. Maya Novak:
Beautiful. You said don’t lose hope, but some people are losing hope. So what would you say to someone who is losing hope about their healing?

01:16:43
Tom Ockler:
Okay, well I would have them find a practitioner in their area who is very empathetic, very supportive, knowledgeable, and who will help them use EFT to not lose hope. Hopelessness and shame and guilt are as close to death as you want to get because they’re just terrible emotions. Hopelessness is one of the things that people get right before they give up. Don’t give up. There are people out there who can help you. You just need to – I hate to say get off of your hind end - but you’ve got to get on the computer. You’ve got to start searching. There’s chat groups, there’s great organizations like yours helping people, matching people with people that can help them. I love the idea that with the internet we can more easily match people up to good, safe, smart, knowledgeable, experienced practitioners. Start looking. Start talking, start looking. If they start pushing drugs at you, nope, not where I’m going, I’m going somewhere else. Find people who will inspire you to get better.

01:17:49
Dr. Maya Novak:
Yes, it’s true. It’s so much easier now than 20 years ago, or even 15 years ago. It’s so much easier. However, the internet can be also a jungle where there is a lot of negativity and negative stories.

01:18:01
Tom Ockler:
Yes.

01:18:01
Dr. Maya Novak:
So finding the right person – it is possible – but sometimes you have to pull the weeds out of the way.

01:18:11
Tom Ockler:
Yes, and think of the experience you gain going through that process. The best teacher in the word is failure, it is. It teaches you, hopefully, don’t do that again. Do something different. So I feel very empathetic toward people who’ve gone on a journey and haven’t gotten where they needed to go. But there are people out there who can help you. In fact, Maya, I have people who live in different countries and around the United States and it’s not economically feasible or geographically desirable for them to come and see me. I’ll try to find practitioners in their area who can try and get them going. Students of mine who live in different parts of the country, I’ll call them and say hey, do you feel like taking this on, it looks like it’s a good challenge to you. I’ll try. Some of them just end up coming to me anyway, but you always look in your area first and see who’s there. There might be a great resource for you.

01:19:03
Dr. Maya Novak:
Great. So one last question that I have is a bit of a fun question.

01:19:08
Tom Ockler:
Okay.

01:19:08
Dr. Maya Novak:
If you were stuck on a desert island with an injury and you could bring only one thing with you that would help you heal perfectly, what would that be?

01:19:18
Tom Ockler:
It’s a loaded question because I have more tools in my brain than the average person would have. Honestly, I would probably enjoy companionship. A wonderful companion that’s there to be empathetic and supportive and help, and let that very positive good human energy of somebody caring for you. There is nothing as healing as a person who shows they care for you. I think that’s so very important. Especially since I know all of the tricks and the techniques to really get my body to heal, it would be great to have somebody to go that journey with me. That’s about all I could say. I know that may not be what some of your folks who tune in are all about, but because I am there as far as the tools and the tricks to bring, and they’re in my brain. That would probably be the nice – I would hate to be alone on a desert island. No, I don’t want to do that!

01:20:20
Dr. Maya Novak:
Beautiful. So Tom, I extremely enjoyed our conversation. Please share with us where people can find more about you and about your work.

01:20:31
Tom Ockler:
Okay. Well, they can go to tomocklerpt.com – so it’s my name t o m o c k l e r p t dot.com. It opens up my website for practitioners who are looking to learn, take courses from me. It opens up information just about me. It opens up about my seminars that I teach for other practitioners, be they massage therapists, physical therapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, athletic trainers, who want to learn the techniques that I use. They can go to those sites and see where I’m teaching courses. I teach kind of all over the place, so they can find out more about me. They can also – I never somebody to chat with me on the phone. If they want to talk with me, I’ll get on the phone with you. If I’m busy with a patient, I’ll get back with you later. I have Skyped with people, basically video-conferenced with people to try to get to the bottom of some of their issues with them and help them out. I’ll type back and forth until my fingers are raw and bloody. I’ll do anything I can to try and help people find someone to help them. If not, then maybe they’ll have to come and see me. But I spend a lot of time just communicating with people all over the place to try and get them to figure out where to go and how to find their cures, their help.

01:21:48
Dr. Maya Novak:
Tom, thank you so much for being here, for sharing your knowledge and expertise. Like I said, I extremely enjoyed our conversation and I’m absolutely positive that there are a lot of notes right now after this interview all around the world.

01:22:03
Tom Ockler:
Good, I hope so. It’s hard to believe an hour just went by isn’t it?

01:22:08
Dr. Maya Novak:
I know.

01:22:09
Tom Ockler:
And there’s even more information to share if you ever need more. That would be great, I love it.

01:22:17
Dr. Maya Novak:
This wraps up today’s episode with Tom Ockler. If you haven’t done it yet, subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you’re using to tune in, and share this episode with your loved ones – it really can change someone’s life. To access show notes, links, and transcript, of today’s talk go to mayanovak.com/podcast. To learn more about The Mindful Injury Recovery Method visit my website mayanovak.com and find my book Heal Beyond Expectations on Amazon. Until next time – keep evolving, blooming, and healing.

Love and gratitude xx
Dr. Maya

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