How Somatic Exercise Can Improve Your Weightlifting

I just received an email that continues the thread of my last blog post about the efficacy of combining Somatic Exercise classes with private clinical sessions for more long lasting pain relief:

Barry Kinsella is a weightlifter from Dublin, Ireland, owner of the blog Weightlifting Epiphanies.

Barry took his time watching my Pain Relief Through Movement DVD, experiencing the movements, and learning more about how he reacted to them, before writing a review. He decided to further research the field of Somatics himself, as he did his daily Somatic Exercise routine to continue to experience the changes he was slowly creating in his body.

Read Barry’s comprehensive review of my Pain Relief Through Movement DVD.

Barry took the time to further investigate Somatics, letting me know that

…a good few weightlifters will be interested in your DVD and also in Somatics itself. The more people that know about it the better.

Having suffered injuries as an competitive athlete, he realizes that he could use a few sessions with a Certified Somatic Educator in Ireland. This would help him continue learning how to release his patterns of compensation and adaptation even more rapidly. Barry looked intellectually at Hanna Somatics, but knew that changing one’s habitual patterns of muscle tension and movement is something that had to be experienced in his daily Somatic Exercise routine. That’s a critically important distinction to make.

Regain full muscle function through pandiculation.

One of the methods Barry learned from my DVD is to pandiculate instead of stretch. He learned to contract into the tension, and then slowly release out of it. This action of contracting first, then slowly releasing is what hits the reset button in your nervous system and muscular system. Because it is a voluntary action (not passive, like most static stretching), your brain voluntarily regains both sensation and function of the muscle and its synergists. The muscles release past the point that they were involuntarily (and painfully) tight before so the brain now has the full muscle length.

You don’t have to be a weightlifter to feel tight and sore, either. Many of us experience habituated muscle tension simply from years of “life” and stress. We adapt to our life circumstances no matter who we are – athletes, office workers, dancers, teachers, children, teenagers. We hunch our shoulders, tighten our backs, limp if we suffer an injury on one side, clench our jaws when we’re upset. We can all benefit from learning to release these adaptations and adjustments so that we can move the way we used to before the stress kicked in.

You also don’t have to do everything Barry did in order to learn more about Somatics.  “Waking up” your awareness and staying awake and attentive to your movement habits, reflexive responses to stress or compensation patterns can be simple:

Whatever you choose to do, if you have muscle pain and have “tried everything,” Hanna Somatics will provide you the common sense knowledge, techniques, and exercises to help you live life pain-free. You will wonder why you hadn’t heard about it years ago!

Relieve Your Arm, Hand and Wrist Pain Using Somatic Movement

In my last post I shared an email from a client who had severe arm, hand, and wrist pain. Rather than stretching those muscles or attempting to relax them through trigger point therapy or passive release, check out the video below and find out how they can work for you.

Tight, frozen muscles learn to stay tight through repetitive actions that involve the muscles of the forearms, hands and fingers. This creates an involuntary pattern of contraction. The most effective, long-term solution is through pandiculation of the muscles: contracting them first, followed by a slow lengthening, and a complete relaxation. This reeducates the muscles to release.

It’s also important to address the muscles of the center of the body that contribute to tight forearms. Remember that the body works as a whole cooperative system, not as a separate series of interchangeable parts. Pay attention to the way in which you sit when you’re at the computer or driving. Slumping to one side, or tightening one shoulder is a pattern that can contribute to arm, hand, and wrist pain. Relax the big muscles in the center of the body, and the periphery (the arms, hands, legs and feet) will more easily relax.

Pain Relief For Carpal Tunnel and Arm Pain

Here’s feedback a client sent me about how Somatic Exercises helped her relieve her arm pain, wrist pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome:

Lately I’ve been having hand, wrist, and forearm pain. It had been getting worse for about 2-3 months. In the last 2 weeks it’s been so painful that it also reduced my grip strength severely. I need my hands for my work, so this is not acceptable. Most of the pain is centered on my right forearm near the elbow, and around the wrist when using the mouse with my computer. The pain and problem even affects my ability to take notes with a pencil! I spend much time at the computer, running my own businesses. I do a lot of research using only my mouse-hand to click.

I told Martha about the problem and she told me that the issue was probably Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA) in my arm, which affected my hand. The muscles had “forgotten” to stop contracting. I now know a lot about SMA and Hanna Somatics, but I was thinking that I had a repetitive stress injury. Martha reminded me that “repetitive stress injury” was about contracting the same muscles over a long amount of time, and “freezing up,” which was the definition of SMA.

We scheduled a Skype video session. I showed her my injured muscles as well as my health history. Then she showed me a series of Somatic movements designed to reduce the muscle tension and lessen my muscle  pain. She also asked me many questions about my posture and my [computer] working habits.

Later that night, the pain returned. I could see the difference between my “mousing arm” and my other arm: my mousing arm and hand was “thicker” and tighter. Hanna Somatics practitioners are trained to assess clients’ muscle tightness to determine if the body is holding excess muscle tension. My arm was very painful and I could not even close my hand; if I could close my hand, the effort hurt. This is how I realize that my hand was stuck in a contracted holding-mouse position.

I repeated the series of forearm and wrist movements that Martha taught me over our Skype session. Instantly, after completing the series (it took about 5 minutes), I could feel my muscles relax, and my arm was not swollen or tight anymore. I could close my hand, too. My arm felt relaxed, which relaxed my body, and I was without pain. I remembered that Martha said that we are retraining the brain to relax the muscles.

However, I realized that when I returned to my computer, the pain and stiffness returned – I didn’t even need to be “repetitive” in my movements.

I am now working on changing my posture, chair height, mouse position, and tension level. Martha even told me that tensing an entire arm, or leaning on my arm, can affect all the way down to my hand! It’s been about 24 hours since working with Martha on my wrist, hand and arm. I can release my own pain, and now I am working on fixing the conditions that make the pain return. I am looking forward to working with Martha more to pinpoint my posture and tension habits. However I have learned to release any pain that arises… and soon will improve my body-awareness enough to keep the pain away forever.

In my next post I will show you a video of the movements/techniques I taught this client during our Skype session. Stay tuned!