Traumatic stress causes many problems for survivors and others. We don’t feel well enough to accomplish our life goals or to function in day-to-day routines.

There is a new solution to traumatic stress, and it is called Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE®).

This article and those that follow in August will outline traumatic stress and how TRE can change lives.

What is traumatic stress?


Traumatic stress is a process by which individual’s resources are lost or threatened beyond individuals’ ability to defend themselves against resource threats or recover from resource losses (Aspinwall & Taylor, 1997)

Traumatic stress is a response to adverse factors in our lives. These negative events may occur to children and adults alike and may include the following:

  • A serious vehicle accident
  • Sexual or physical abuse or assault
  • Combat or exposure to a war zone
  • The unexpected death of someone you love
  • Natural disaster
  • House fires
  • Torture
  • Medical severe procedures or events
  • Witnessing a death or seeing dead bodies
  • Domestic violence
  • Being a witness of violence such as a suicide or homicide
  • Mass violence
  • Terrorism

The loss of resources exacerbates the vulnerability of women to future loss and threat of loss. People who experience traumatic stress often form other disorders such as complex post-traumatic stress disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Muscle Stretch Reflexes


To understand muscle stretch reflexes, one must first have a rudimentary understanding of the central nervous system (CNS). The central nervous system coordinates and influences activity in all parts of the body using its long tendons to receive and offer information to and from the body’s muscles.

Our bodies are loaded with potential reflexes. One example may be when a doctor taps below your knee and causes your leg to kick up. When the doctor taps slightly below your kneecap, he measures how strong your responsive muscles stretch reflexes.

According to Wikipedia, “Muscle stretch reflexes are involuntary contractions of muscles induced by a brisk stretch of the muscle.” There are two types of muscle reflexes involved, the afferent muscle reflex and the efferent muscle reflex.

Afferent muscle reflexes bring signals from the muscles into the nervous system.

Efferent muscle reflexes cause a response to the muscles from the nervous system.

These two distinctions are critical to understanding Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE®).

Introducing Dr. David Berceli and Trauma Releasing Exercises

TRE® is a new innovative method of using vibrating and shaking exercises to assist the body in releasing deep muscular patterns of tension, stress, and trauma.  When done safely, in a controlled environment, this relaxation method can release muscle tension and calm the nervous system. Through TRE®, the body is encouraged to return to a state of balance.

Because stress, tension, and trauma are physical and psychological, the reflexive muscle vibrations used in TRE® release the tension, causing a pleasant and soothing feeling, plus people report feeling a sense of well-being that wasn’t present before the exercises.

Trauma releasing exercises were designed to be something anyone can do as a self-help tool. Once the method is conquered, TRE® is ready to be done independently of the instructor as needed and will support and promote wellness.

Doctor David Berceli is the creator of Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises, a revolutionary technique to release profound tension in the body created by a traumatic experience.

Doctor Berceli, through observations of communities in the Middle East and Africa where many had been traumatized by war, discovered that by inducing the body’s natural tremoring mechanism, one could release trauma.

As a result of doing TRE® exercises, there was a reduction in the need for psychotherapy or drugs to control post-traumatic symptoms. Since TRE® is easily taught and implemented, Berceli has used it to support war veterans in the United States military.

However, the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health stated that they could find, “No relevant literature was identified regarding the clinical effectiveness of TRE® for the treatment of patients with PTSD, anxiety, depression, or psychological trauma. No evidence-based guidelines associated with the use of TRE for the treatment of said disorders were identified.”

Research continues to find and prove the benefits of trauma releasing exercises.

The Benefits of TRE®

There are many benefits to practicing trauma-releasing exercises, including a better feeling of being grounded and becoming less reactive to everyday life events. Some people trained in TRE® report an improvement in their chronic muscle pain and lessening incidences of panic attacks.

During TRE® training, it is vital to allow the practitioner to know if you have conditions or limitations such as physical or emotional problems. Talking to your practitioner is vital because your exercise regimen may be slightly different than others in your group.

Other benefits one might experience from TRE® are improved sleep and body/mind awareness, plus increased flexibility. However, perhaps the most important benefit may be an increase in one’s ability to self-regulate.

There is a sequence of seven exercises in TRE® that trigger neurogenic tremors and reduce symptoms of traumatic stress and psychological disorders, such as PTSD or Complex PTSD.

According to research conducted by Scaer in 2007, the tremor mechanism used in trauma-releasing exercises reduce or inhibits the activity of the amygdala, the seat of the fight or flight response. Scaer found that the neuronal networks with trauma content inside them are erased in the procedural memory of the person practicing TRE®. The tremors and movements of trauma-releasing exercises help form new positive neural nets increasing a person’s ability to relax and self-regulate.

Self-Regulation and TRE®

When someone becomes dysregulated and cannot control their emotions, they become overwhelmed with emotions, feelings, sensations, and thoughts. This state is called collapse. Collapse involves a mental breakdown, a period of intense mental distress that can interrupt daily life. Collapse refers to a wide variety of mental distresses, including depression and anxiety.

TRE® can help treat collapse by stimulating self-regulation.

According to cognitive neuroscience, research indicates that self-regulation depends on top-down control from the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for the planning of complex cognitive behaviors), to subcortical regions involved in survival and emotion.

Self-regulation, according to the TRE® website, is the ability to tolerate and control one’s emotions, feelings, sensations, and thoughts independent of external supervision or regulation.

TRE® can help one, through careful stimulation of different muscle groups, release the muscle tension that is causing both emotional and physical discomfort and increase self-regulation.

Bringing It All Together

Trauma releasing exercises are a unique method to treat traumatic stress. If you are saying to yourself, “I’ve never heard of it,” you are not alone, neither had this author. However, after researching this piece and those to follow, I am very interested in giving it a try.

First introduced by Dr. Berceli, TRE® appears to offer a unique method to reduce the stress leftover after experiencing traumatic events. By allowing oneself to shake and quiver certain muscle groups, TRE® can increase your ability to regulate your emotions by lessening the tension bottled up in your body.

Using TRE® is a revolutionary and possibly helpful form of exercise that has significant implications for the betterment of the health and well-being of many.

“Health is a state of body; wellness is a state of being.” ~ J. Stanford

“A healthy outside starts from the inside.” ~ Robert Urich


Aspinwall, L. G., & Taylor, S. G. (1997). A stitch in time: Self-regulation and proactive coping. Psychological Bulletin, 121, 417-436

Scaer R (2007), The Body Bears the Burden, New York, London: Routledge

If you or a loved one live in the despair and isolation that comes with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, please, come to us for help. CPTSD Foundation offers a wide range of services, including:

All our services are reasonably priced, and some are even free. So, to gain more insight into how complex post-traumatic stress disorder is altering your life and how you can overcome it, sign-up; we will be glad to help you.  If you cannot afford to pay, go to to apply for aid. We only wish to serve you.