What is TRE® and How Does it Promote Healing?

A client lies down to tremor during a TRE Session

What does TRE stand for?

TRE stands for Trauma and Tension Releasing Exercises. This method of trauma recovery was developed by David Berceli, a trained psychologist and expert in both trauma work and international conflict resolution. David Berceli is a leading trauma expert who after years of working in war torn zones recognized that children would often shake in response to bomb blasts while the adults would not. Interestingly, he observed that the children who tremored were able to return to a natural balanced state relatively quickly whereas the adults suffered from PTSD. These observations sent him on a journey of discovery and ultimately led to the development of TRE. TRE has been tested, with positive results, in war-torn countries in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as those affected by natural disasters and is currently an approved PTSD treatment method for soldiers returning to the USA.

What exactly is TRE?

I often get asked what exactly TRE is and how it works to promote healing. The most succinct explanation comes from the Trauma Prevention Website which says, “TRE® is an innovative series of exercises that assist the body in releasing deep muscular patterns of stress, tension and trauma. The exercises safely activate a natural reflex mechanism of shaking or vibrating that releases muscular tension, calming down the nervous system. When this muscular shaking/vibrating mechanism is activated in a safe and controlled environment, the body is encouraged to return back to a state of balance.”

This natural reflex mechanism is the body’s inbuilt healing mechanism that helps regulate our nervous system after it has been heightened in response to an activating event. This shaking was previously seen to be a symptom of the stress instead of the body’s natural response to releasing the tension and stress from the body once the danger has passed.

How does it actually work?

To understand how TRE can help people heal from trauma, stress and anxiety we must first look at the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls digestion, breathing and heart rate, even our ability to relate to others, and how we perceive the world. Our autonomic system has a very important job – keeping us alive.  

When facing down a ferocious lion, an oncoming car or maybe just an impending deadline, our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) activates our Sympathetic Nervous System (PNS) which helps us prepare to either fight or flee the scene. 

A flash flood of hormones boosts the body’s alertness and heart rate, sending extra blood to the muscles. Your breath quickens, delivering fresh oxygen to the brain, and an infusion of glucose and adrenalin is shot into the bloodstream for a quick energy boost. According to Harvard Medical School, this response occurs so quickly that you don’t even realise it has taken place.

How our Sympathetic Nervous System can become stuck

In our modern world, the “threats” are not as obvious as escaping a hungry lion. Daily, we encounter micro-traumas and stress that accumulate in our body. Our boss screams at us, we get cut off in traffic, we struggle to make ends meet or we are simply so overscheduled we feel stressed.

This accumulation of many events over time can leave our nervous system stuck in hyper arousal.  Our muscles get tighter, we may suffer from IBS, we struggle to sleep and concentrate, or we may be diagnosed with generalised anxiety and start taking medication.

Medication can certainly help alleviate the symptoms but they do not get to the root cause of the problem.  The change or release needs to take place at a nervous system level to provide long term relief.  One way to access this nervous system charge is through Trauma and Tension Releasing Exercises.

TRE Activates the Parasympathetic Nervous System

TRE works because it communicates with your autonomic nervous system. The series of exercises is designed to signal safety to your system, telling it that the danger has now passed. You are safe. This signal of safety activates your tremor mechanism and the body begins to shake out the tension and hormones released into the body during the activating event. This in turn activates your Parasympathetic Nervous System.

The Parasympathetic Nervous System is responsible for the body’s rest and digestion response when the body is relaxed, resting, or feeding. It essentially undoes the work of sympathetic nervous system after a stressful situation. When your parasympathetic nervous system is activated your heart rate decreases, your breath deepens and your body is able to effectively digest your food, decreasing symptoms of IBS and increasing nutritional uptake.

Why does TRE help people heal?

The shaking mechanism causes the deep muscular tension patterns to release. Relaxing tense muscle patterns can often reduce stress in the spine, neck, shoulders and pelvis. When tension is released anywhere in the body, the brain registers a reduction in pain signals, producing new hormones that promotes healing.

Trauma and Tension Releasing Exercises (TRE®) is a self-empowering resource to literally shake off stress, tension and trauma on a regular basis to help you create:

  • deeper relaxation
  • improved sleep
  • reduced pain
  • greater resilience
  • reduced occupational stress
  • improved core stability
  • more energy and vitality
  • stronger mindfulness
  • faster physical and emotional recovery
  • empowered relationships
  • natural calm and patience

Find out more about TRE or sign up for our 6 week Trauma & Tension Program.