Back, hip joint, knee pain, sciatica and piriformis syndrome pain are common conditions easily helped with Hanna Somatics. Many clients present with posture that is “out of balance;” their hips and pelvis are not level, their leg length is uneven and their gait is not smooth. Some clients have said, “Just the other day someone asked me why I was limping, and I never even noticed I limped! All I know is that my back (or hip or piriformis) is killing me!”
They’re not concerned about their limp, because their limp feels “normal.” This feeling of “out of balance” feeling “balanced” is an example of Sensory Motor Amnesia, – the condition in which the brain literally forgets how to sense, move and control muscles efficiently. Their muscles have adapted to specific stress reflexes and they no longer move freely, the way they once did. When you lose awareness of the way in which you move, there is cause for concern.
Most of my clients with back, hip or piriformis pain associated with a limp were treated unsuccessfully by:
- physical therapy (most common)
- cortisone shots (common)
- trigger point therapy
- massage therapy
- MRIs, X-rays, blood tests, nerve conduction tests
What was missing in the treatments of all of these clients was an understanding of how a limp develops, which muscles are involved in the need to limp, and what to do about it.
Limping means the muscles of the center of your body are out of balance.
When we walk we are meant to walk with a smooth, even gait. Our pelvis is perfectly designed for upright, bipedal locomotion. The more we relax our pelvis when walking, the more effortless our movement will be and the less joint pain we will have. Below is a great video of balanced, strong walking and upright posture – a necessity for African women carrying things on their heads.
This kind of natural movement is “the norm” until something occurs to put a “monkey wrench” in the workings of the brain.
When we have an accident – a fall, a slip on the ice, a fall on our coccyx, or a bone break – our brain immediately contracts the large muscles of the trunk to protect that area. We learn to compensate until the injury is healed. The muscles involved in this pattern are the lattissimus, obliques, adductors, abductors and abdominal muscles, which all contract together, twisting and rotating us in an attempt to keep us up in gravity. The photo to the right is an excellent example of an involuntarily invoked trauma reflex – a desperate attempt by the brain to regain balance and not fall.
For many people, a fall (or repeated falls, as in snowboarding, skiing or ice skating) results in an habituated posture in which the muscles on one side of the body are slightly tighter than the muscles on the other side.
This kind of functional problem can, over time, create serious structural damage, like hip joint pain, labral tears, osteoarthritis and hip joint impingement.
The trauma reflex causes us to limp, putting more weight into one side of the body.
When you get stuck in this particular stress reflex, pain isn’t far behind. You begin to walk like a car with one flat tire, “galumphing” from side to side. The easiest way to reverse a limp is to get the brain back in control of the muscles. It’s easy to do with Somatic Exercises and, when necessary, the skilled guidance of a Certified Hanna (Clinical) Somatic Educator.
Good somatic solutions for limping:
For those who own my Pain Relief Through Movement DVD, the following exercises focus on the waist muscles/trunk rotators, and are excellent for helping to restore a free and balanced gait:
- side bend – addresses the obliques, which are muscles of side-bending
- washrag – brings in gentle twisting of the pelvis, and shoulders, as the waist lengthens
- human X **- the quintessential movement of “crawling,” which lengthens both sides of the body
- steeple twist** – increases the ability to twist and lengthen the center of the body – back, abdominals, waist
- walking exercises, part 1 & 2 **- freeing the pelvis and reintegrating a healthy pattern of walking.
- hip lift and reach – frees the hips and pelvis as you add the shoulders for more movement.
** – these exercises are found on my “basics” DVD.