I just received a wonderful newsletter from my New Hampshire Hanna Somatics colleague, Noreen Owen. She was 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 Educatorswith: 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 kinds of arthritis. 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 X-rays show deterioration in the bones or not. 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 a sports injury and come away over time 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 their joint pain and stiffness is caused by arthritis. We’ve got it backwards. Loss of muscle function causes stiffness and pain, not the other way around. You can do something much more self-empowering than medication that has longer term benefits than physical therapy: 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. Learn how to restore voluntary muscle function and proper posture and those achy joints have space to move properly. Chronically contracted muscles put pressure on joints, making it difficult to move them freely.
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 – 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 a month of doing the Somatic Exercises my hip pain was gone and I was able to go back to vigorous walking, and aerobics classes.
Learning simple Somatic Exercises can teach you how to release and relax the muscles that inhibit your own 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. We forget to move. We 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 carrying water and having a strong, supple body.
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 to your life.