Learn how to discover the root of your pain and reduce suffering through movement, versus popping another pill for the pain.
We live in a time of incredible advancement in medical technology, and yet Western medicine has not solved the mystery of physical deterioration and the inevitable chronic aches and pains that come with age.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2008 showed that even though the amount of money we spend on treating back and neck pain is rapidly increasing, there has been no improvement in the health or functioning of those suffering from spinal problems.
The JAMA study also showed that expenditures for pain medications has increased more than any other type of treatment, nearly tripling from $7.3 billion to $19.8 billion between 1997 and 2005.
We are spending more and more money on simply masking the pain, when instead our dollars should be spent on uncovering the underlying cause of chronic pain.
Somatic educators, such as F. Matthias Alexander, Moshe Feldenkrais and Thomas Hanna, understood that chronic pain and physical deterioration are caused by habitual misuse of the body. These somatic educators explored how exercises which increased awareness of internal sensations often led to improved motor control of the body.
During the 1900’s, somatic movement techniques became known for their miraculous ability to improve motor function and eliminate chronic pain.
Hanna’s knowledge of neurology led him to explore the ways in which the brain controls the body more deeply than his predecessors had done. Building on the passive movement techniques developed by Alexander and Feldenkrais, Hanna explored active movement techniques which proved to be more powerful in creating lasting change in the way that people moved and sensed their bodies.
He saw people with chronic muscular pain, joint pain, and movement difficulties quickly and easily improve by regaining control of muscles that had been keeping them in their habitual posture and movement patterns.
The result of Hanna’s years of research and exploration was the development of his neuromuscular re-education technique, known as both Hanna Somatic Education and Clinical Somatic Education.
While a number of movement techniques are involved in Hanna’s method of sensory-motor education, the most effective is his technique of pandiculation. Pandiculation contracts and releases muscles in such a way that accurate biofeedback is sent to the brain, allowing one to regain conscious, voluntary control of the muscles.
Patrick Flanagan was injured as a child and spent most of his young life trapped by his condition and limited in the activities he wanted to pursue. Flanagan spent a decade looking for a solution, trying several different modalities in both mainstream and alternative medicine.
“I felt many therapies were effective at temporarily reducing pain, but I didn’t feel that they got to the root of the problem, as the pain would always return and my posture would always be distorted within a short period of time,” says Flanagan. “I stumbled across clinical somatic education accidentally, and in a one-hour session from a student in training, I experienced better results than I had in a previous decade with other modalities.”
Somatic education is taught through a series of one hour lessons, which include both hands-on movements and self care exercises. All of the movements are very slow and gentle, and are suitable for all ages and physical abilities.
Somatic movement techniques work with the nervous system, releasing chronic muscular tension and making lasting changes to posture and movement patterns.
The purpose of the somatic education process is not only to reduce pain and regain awareness and control, but also to teach the client how to guide himself through the process without a practitioner. The ultimate goal of a series of hands-on sessions is that the client will gain the knowledge and understanding necessary to proceed on his own and be fully self-sufficient.
More information about Hanna Somatic Education techniques can be found in Hanna’s book, Somatics: Reawakening the Mind’s Control of Movement, Flexibility, and Health. The book features case studies and engaging explanations of how the sensory-motor system works and how people can improve with age and learn to be free from pain.
Sarah Warren is a Clinical Somatic Educator who works with people who have chronic pain, musculoskeletal conditions, and posture and mobility issues. She is the co-owner and co-founder of Somatic Movement Center in Watertown, MA. Sarah’s passion is helping people work with the underlying cause of their pain, and teaching them how to get rid of their pain for life. Follow Sarah on Twitter @movepainfree and reach her through www.somaticmovementcenter.com.
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