Why Medical School Should Teach Somatic Education

This blog post is the first of two posts about Somatic Education and the current medical perspective on chronic muscle pain. Today’s healthcare system is swamped with people in chronic muscular pain. Upwards of $86 billion is spent on back pain alone.

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

  • how did this happen?
  • what’s happening in my back?
  • can you “fix” it and make it go away?

This article has statistics from various sources about the costs of back pain and the honest assessment of the problem. There is a good faith attempt to help people with back pain, yet there is no useful education in medical schools that can applied to truly help those with chronic muscle pain.  In my book, Move Without Pain, I cite a 2008 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association about the costs of treating back pain. There is an accompanying quote from a health policy expert from the University of Washington who states,

We are putting a lot more money into this problem and not seeing any improvement in health.

Why is this?

The reason that doctors are seeing little improvement in health is because they’re asking the wrong questions and trying to diagnose something that is unmeasurable with MRIs, X-rays, and blood tests. Most chronic muscle pain is the result of  SENSORY MOTOR AMNESIA and somatic muscular dysfunction – not an inherent breakdown in the structure of the body. Sensory motor amnesia presents as:

  • low back pain
  • sciatica
  • TMJ
  • neck/shoulder pain
  • poor posture
  • shallow breathing
  • leg length discrepancy
  • sacro-ilial dysfunction
  • hip joint pain
  • inflexibility
  • altered gait
  • plantarfascitis

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

Medical diagnostics only see the end result of this state of sensory motor amnesia (the loss of the brain’s ability to sense, feel and move the muscles properly). Diagnostics see the herniated discs, nerve impingement, or joint compression, all of which are caused by involuntarily contracted muscles pulling on bones. The brain controls the muscles. Only through a process of somatic re-education can those involuntarily contracted muscles learn how to release, relax and coordinate properly so that the body can return to a pain-free state.

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 re-education. Below is an email I received from a woman who read my book, Move Without Pain, and purchased my DVD, Pain Relief Through Movement. 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 naturally 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 and 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, (much like the posture of a mother holding a baby on her hip) would cause more sciatica. It would make a muscle in my hip & buttock (the gluteus medius) muscle 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 & 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.

D.W., Arizona, www.weedemandreap.com

If you’d like to get similar results in learning to reversing your own muscle pain, contact Martha for a series of private clinical sessions, buy my book and/or DVDs, or attend a class or workshop. To simply learn more about how Hanna Somatics (Clinical Somatics) can teach you how to eliminate your muscle pain and improve your movement, click here.

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