Janet (not her real name) came to my office this week complaining of hip pain. Walking upstairs was painful and laborious – and she was only in her 30’s. She had, as she put it, “a list a mile long of things I’ve tried” in her search for long term pain relief. “I’m told I have piriformis syndrome. If I could just get my right buttock to relax, I think I could finally begin to feel better,” she said.
In a Clinical Somatics session that focused on the Trauma Reflex, Janet learned – very quickly – to release her tight waist muscles, ribcage and trunk rotators.I taught her to release the entire pattern of contraction that was causing her buttock to spasm: her tight buttock, abdominals and abductor muscles. Working with sensory feedback from my hand, she contracted these muscles as a pattern, then slowly released them into a fuller, more relaxed length. This technique is called assisted pandiculation – it resets the muscle control, function and length at the level of the central nervous system. Twice more she pandiculated those same muscles, until she reached her own comfortable limit, flopping her leg inward easily. She also learned the Back Lift to begin to relax her tightly contracted back muscles.
What happened next took me by surprise:
She began to yell, “Oh my God, oh my God! I can’t believe it! I can’t believe it!”
“Are you alright? Does anything hurt?” I asked. She’d scared me!
“No, no, no, it’s just that I finally relaxed my buttock! I’ve been saying this all along and nobody believed me! This is my eureka moment!“
Janet left the office with an ability to move her hips in a way she hadn’t been able to for eight years.
Most muscle pain problems are functional in nature, not structural
Why did this clinical Somatics session help her when years of physical therapy, trigger point therapy, massage, acupuncture and medical treatments hadn’t? Because Janet’s problem wasn’t structural; it was functional. She suffered from Sensory Motor Amnesia, the habituated compensatory response to two traumatic accidents. Her muscles had learned to adapt, resulting in a twisted pelvis, altered gait and tight hip joint. As Janet learned to release the entire pattern of tightness on her right side (and compensatory tightness on her other side) and improve the function of her muscles, her hip pain abated, and her muscle coordination and balance improved.
Janet wasn’t completely out of pain. She has more to learn and practice in order to change her old way of holding her body to a new, more free sense of movement. Her brain’s “new normal” will take time to integrate. In addition to a few more clinical sessions I told her to attend every Hanna Somatic Movement class and workshop she possibly could. Being free and in control of your movement involves life-long learning. I give this same advice to every client I work with. While private clinical sessions are profoundly and rapidly effective, attending only a few sessions is like taking a few piano lessons and expecting to perform like Chopin or Mozart!
People often ask, “why do I need to come to class if I’m doing private sessions and feel much better?” The answer is simple: life is dynamic, as is movement. Every day there is the possibility of change and stress. Classes gives you the opportunity to learn more, differentiate your brain and movement, and become more skillful. Learning to override old habits and takes time! The more you sense and feel as you move, the more you can learn. The more you can learn, the more you can master. The more you master an awareness of yourself, from the inside out, the more adaptable and resilient you will be throughout your life. Eventually efficient movement will become your brain’s default mode as you become more self-monitoring, self-correcting, and self-healing. Varying your daily Somatic Movement routine with classes and workshops and fun, functional movement makes your brain smarter and keeps you out of pain.
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