Muscle Pain: Is It Really A Medical Condition?

Today’s healthcare system is swamped with people experiencing chronic muscular pain. Upwards of $86 billion is spent on low back pain alone.

When people visit a doctor for back pain they are looking for answers:

  • How did this happen?
  • What’s wrong with my back?
  • Can you fix it and make it go away?

The statistics surrounding the costs of back pain are frightening. There is a good faith attempt to help people with low back pain, yet there is no useful education in medical schools that can applied to educate those with chronic muscle pain and give them information that makes sense.

Sensory Motor Amnesia causes chronic muscle pain.

The reason that doctors are seeing little improvement in health is because they’re asking the wrong questions and trying to use MRIs, X-rays, and blood tests to diagnose something that is unmeasurable with those tools. Most chronic muscle pain is the result of  Sensory Motor Amnesia and muscular dysfunction, not an inherent structural breakdown in the body. Examples of Sensory motor amnesia are:

  • low back pain
  • sciatica
  • TMJ
  • neck/shoulder pain
  • poor posture
  • shallow breathing
  • leg length discrepancy
  • sacroilial dysfunction
  • hip joint pain
  • inflexibility
  • uneven gait
  • plantar fasciitis

Muscular dysfunction is a subjective experience that cannot be measured by medical diagnostics.

Medical diagnostics only see the end result of sensory motor amnesia, such as herniated discs, nerve impingement, or joint compression, all of which are caused by involuntarily contracted muscles pulling on bones. Because the muscles are controlled by the central nervous system, they must be taught how to release, relax and coordinate properly so that the body can return to a pain-free state. We adapt to stress by tightening our muscles in specific ways; we can learn to release them fully, regain balance, strength and freedom of movement. It’s a task we must do ourselves. No one can “fix” us.

You can learn to reverse your pain with simple Somatic Exercises and a dose of self-awareness.

What is required is not “treatment,” (which acts upon the body), but Somatic Education (which works from within). Below is an email I received from a woman who read my book, Move Without Pain, and purchased my Pain Relief Through Movement DVD. She is a shining example of how one can apply the tools of Somatic Education to reverse years of chronic pain:

I started having back pain while attending nursing school in 2002 at only 20 years old. Having complete trust in modern medicine, I went to my primary medical doctor. Through standard medical protocol, I endured years of multiple MRI’s, steroid injections, physical therapy sessions, chiropractors, and finally 2 separate surgeries removing disc bulges. Ten years later, still in pain, the only thing anybody could diagnose me with was pelvic muscle dysfunction.

I decided to try Hanna Somatic exercises. After each session, I felt relaxed and had better posture, but still had some sciatic pain. I knew, from reading [Martha’s] book, that it was vital for me to become aware of how I was moving throughout the rest of my day – and especially of my posture and different habits I had acquired over time.

I began to notice a link between my habits and my sciatica. Activities such as sexual activity, standing on one leg to shave the other in the shower, and standing throughout the day with one hip sticking out, (like the posture of a mother holding a baby on her hip) would cause more sciatica. It would make a muscle in my hip and buttock cramp, fatigue and subsequently cause inflammation and pain. Just becoming self-aware of how I stood throughout the day made all the difference!

As I look back on all the doctors I have seen, I realize that the best diagnostic tool was myself. Practicing Hanna Somatics and becoming more self-aware in the other 23 hours of my day has brought my pain level down to almost nothing now. I am confident as I continue on this path I will be able to completely recover, become strong again and live pain-free.

If you’re interested in learning to reversing your own muscle pain and seeing similar results, check out the following:

Alternately, if you’re a doctor or medical professional, please check out our Somatics Guide for Physicians.

We’ve Got It Backwards About Arthritis Pain

I just received a wonderful newsletter from a Hanna Somatics colleague in New Hampshire, Noreen Owen, announcing a new Somatic Movement series beginning July 18.  The title of this blog post and the message, is taken from her newsletter. It addresses a common complaint people come to Hanna Somatic Educators with: loss of muscle function and freedom of movement due to arthritis.

Lack of proper muscle function is a major cause of arthritis.

There are many contributing factors to arthritis and there are many types of arthritis. (In this post I’m referring to the diagnosis many people are given when they have joint pain without swelling that causes them to feel tight and inflexible.)

Stiffness and joint pain is commonly diagnosed as arthritis, whether or not X-rays show deterioration in the bones. It is possible to have arthritis and have no pain, and it is possible to have joint pain and no arthritis. It is possible to have suffered many sports injuries over time and come away with no arthritis in the affected joint. Medication, physical therapy and “learning to live with it” are common prescriptions for arthritis.

Loss of muscle function causes stiffness and joint pain

Many people are told that arthritis causes their joint pain and stiffness. It is actually the loss of muscle function which causes stiffness and joint pain. There is a much more self-empowering option than medication or physical therapy and it produces long-term benefits: Hanna Somatics.

Your brain controls your muscles and movement. When muscles learn to stay tight and contracted due to stress (compensation due to a surgery or accident, over training in sports, emotional stress or repetitive movements), they literally lose their ability to relax voluntarily.Chronically contracted muscles put pressure on joints, making it difficult to move them freely. Learn how to restore voluntary muscle function and proper posture and those achy joints will have space to move properly.

Movement is the best prescription you could get for arthritis

I once thought I had arthritis in my knees. I had constantly achy knees and couldn’t kneel for any length of time. I was only 44.  My hip hurt and it would “catch” every once in a while, making it hard to walk smoothly. After “trying everything” I discovered Hanna Somatics and learned that what was ailing me wasn’t arthritis, but Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA) – the condition of chronically tight and “frozen” muscles that had learned to stay tight due to stress.

I learned, without painful stretching or force, how to do simple movements that taught my brain to regain control and flexibility of the muscles in my body that were causing my pain. In less than one month of daily Somatic Exercise practice my hip pain was gone and I was able to go back to taking long walks and hikes, and aerobics classes.

Learning simple Somatic Exercises can teach you how to release and relax the muscles that inhibit your mobility and keep you from moving the way you once did. Somatic Exercises are slow and easy. In fact, the less effort you use, the more you will achieve. You will experience relief of stress and anxiety as you improve breathing, sleep, digestion, elimination, and energy level. And… your arthritis may no longer be an issue!

As we get older many of us pull back on our movement in deference to our daily obligations – kids, house, work, driving – and we forget to move. We also no longer live in a world in which our ability to move spells the difference between life and death. Our survival is now measured in the number of hours you can sit behind a computer, not the hours spent tilling fields, carrying wood or water, and having a strong body.

The anti-arthritis recipe

Here are a few simple ideas for maintaining a healthy body, arthritis or not:

  • Somatic Exercises for restored muscle function
  • More movement of every type for a strong body
  • A balanced, sensible diet for optimum health
  • Quiet, peaceful downtime for mental and emotional health

Contact Martha to learn how you can regain your mobility easily and effortlessly with Somatics. Visit the Essential Somatics® store for DVDs to help you with your Somatics Exercises in the comfort of your own home.