How To Save Money, Time and Agony When It Come To Muscular Pain

It is an understatement to say that most people in the industrialized world live a stressful life. One article states, “Low-back pain continues to impose a huge burden on industrialized societies, in terms of symptoms, medical costs, productivity, and work absence. Annual costs related to back pain in the United States alone may run as high as $100 billion per year.”

By the time most people come to see me they’ve spent a minimum of $1000 in their attempt to cure their pain. Medical co-pays, personal trainers, months of physical therapy, special exercise equipment, pillows and gadgets can add up.  There are myriad treatments that attempt to “fix” back pain, and many clients who come for Hanna Somatics have already spent weeks and often years doing them in their search for relief from muscle pain and tension: massage therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, physical therapy, laser therapy, acupuncture, MRIs, Xrays, medication, and a host of others.

Why don’t these therapies work to relieve muscle pain for the long term? Because the doctors and therapists who perform them approach approach the problem as a medical pathology. Muscle pain and dysfunction isn’t a medical problem – it’s a functional problem. There is no doubt that poor muscle function can cause structural damage over the long term.  An uneven gait or limp can cause hip damage. It’s preventing that problem in the first place that is of paramount importance.

The only effective approach to sciatica, piriformis syndrome, low back pain, poor posture, scoliosis, shoulder and hip pain, herniated disks, decreased flexibility, and joint pain is, in most cases, to IMPROVE THE FUNCTION OF THE SENSORY MOTOR SYSTEM so that the entire musculoskeletal system functions optimally. This is a functional approach to a functional problem that the medical profession considers a medical problem. Therein lies the disconnect: most doctors don’t know how to effectively address muscle and joint pain and postural problems.

Muscles move bones and the brain controls the muscles. If muscles are pressing on bones and nerves, causing tingling and pain (“entrapment”), there is a reason for it: there is something that you, the person in pain, is doing to cause the muscles to contract. Any reflexive response to stress, whether it be contracting the back muscles, twisting to the side to avoid an injury (or carry a toddler on the hip for hours at a time) or slumping forward over a computer terminal, will become habituated in the muscles. That means your muscles will become “frozen” and “stuck.” Tight muscles cause pain. Relaxed muscles relieve pain and allow our bones and structure to become balanced again. No doctor or therapy can fix your crooked posture, tight buttock or rounded shoulders. Only you can.

Check out classes at Essential Somatics to begin to learn how to reverse chronic pain and dysfunction for good!

Improving Balance By Relaxing “the Core”

In my last post I wrote about how using crutches while nursing an injury can lead to back pain, hip, shoulder pain and sciatica due to Sensory Motor Amnesia. The entire body can feel as if it’s had a workout. I know – I suffered injuries as a professional dancer and became very knowledgeable in the use of crutches! After the injury is healed balance needs to be restored, and walking needs to become smooth and effortless again. You can work on this before you get off your crutches. Below is a video showing three simple movements to get your started. The first one addresses the muscles of the front and back of the body, and the others address the muscles of the waist and hips. These movements will help remind you to regain coordination of your walking once you’re off crutches. Oh – and you don’t have to be injured to benefit from these movements! Anyone who feels stiff in their gait, or is suffering from knee, foot or hip pain will love these movements. Your posture will improve and you’ll stand straighter, with less effort:

Remember to do these movements SLOWLY, GENTLY AND WITH AWARENESS. Somatic Movements release pain because you are nudging your muscles into greater, more intelligent movement through use of the brain. It’s no different from learning a new dance step or improving your swimming stroke. You’re improving control and sensation of muscles, which allows only the muscles necessary to do the work. Why work hard when you can work efficiently and effortlessly?

And if you’re on crutches now, or have had a serious injury, give a call. I can help you with private sessions, classes and advice.

Pain Relief After Injury – and For Those On Crutches

Have you ever had an accident or surgery and had to use crutches? Are you using crutches now? If so, then you know that using crutches to help out while you nurse an injured limb can create sore shoulders, tight hip muscles, sciatica, and an aching back. Not only that, but using crutches can cause you to literally forget how to walk properly, twist and turn your torso and move your hips. Sensory Motor Amnesia can set it immediately. When you become dependent upon crutches you begin to compensate and adapt in a way that helps you get through the injury, but gets in the way of a smooth gait once you’re back on your feet again. You lose the most basic sense of balance and coordination due to your very real need to rely on the crutches to help you through the day.

However, while you’re on crutches there is a lot you can do BEFORE you get off of them. Here are two photos of “Lynne,” a client I worked with who is still on crutches due to a broken left ankle:

BEFORE: Notice her hip on the left side; it’s higher than the right hip.  Notice the hem of her shirt, which goes up to the left. This occurs due to lifting the left hip to crutch around and protect the left ankle.  It’s not a wonder that Lynne complained of back pain; she had to shift all her weight onto her right side to compensate for her injured left side.

We worked to relax and release the muscles of the “Trauma Reflex,” – the muscles that help you side bend and twist –  which reflexively tighten to avoid further injury. Then we practiced several movement patterns to help Lynne remember how to move her hips easily.

Notice the difference in Lynne’s left hip. After pandiculating the muscles of her waist and working with her hips and legs, she was able to bring herself back into balance. Her weight is evenly distributed on both feet. She reported her back pain gone and a renewed ease of movement in her hips. She said that being balanced “felt strange, because I guess being out of balance became normal for me.” How right she was! Your brain learns instantly how to compensate, so engaging your brain with sensory motor learning, is the only way to regain your coordination and balance.

In my next blog post I will show you some of the movements I gave Lynne to practice in order to remind her muscles relaxed while she continues to heal. When she gets off her crutches her rehab will be easier and more effective.

To learn the movements that will help you regain a smooth gait, relaxed muscles and optimum muscle function, click here to buy my new, easy to follow instructional DVD of Somatic Movements. The methods and movements you will learn in this DVD will teach you to balance your muscles, regain body awareness and relieve pain – all on your own!

There Is No Such Thing as Not Being Physical

In Hanna Somatics the main goal is to teach the client to regain awareness and control of their muscles. This can help them reverse such conditions as sciatica, chronic neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, TMJ and joint pain. The end result is renewed flexibility and control. Most muscular pain is created due to something we did, therefore the only way for it to be reversed is by teaching the muscles to do something different. For seniors that means that proprioception, one of the three elements of balance, will be improved in order to prevent falls. For younger people this means that chronic pain can be prevented and balance, flexibility and coordination doesn’t have to go by the wayside as they age.

This is all learned through movement. Through being physical, and relearning sensory motor patterns that you may lost control of due to accidents, injuries, surgeries, long hours at the computer or on-going stresses. All that is needed is a little time each day to remember how to flex, extend, bend side to side, and twist the body.

Being physical and active is the most natural thing in the world. Being athletic is, for most people, easier than being inactive and sedentary. Many people have said to me, “I’m cerebral, I’ve never been a physical type of person.” While there are definitely those who gravitate more towards intellectual pursuits (writers, scientists), and others who express themselves more physically (dancers, athletes), being physical is how humans interact with the world.  Once humans stop being physical (and I don’t mean “working out in the gym” – I mean simple movement), disease, discomfort, pain and decrepitude are not far off.

As infants, babies learn to walk by exploring the ability of their bodies to move. The very first movements of a baby in utero begin the process of learning.  As infants and toddlers they arch their backs, crawl, reach, stumble, fall, climb, and run.  They learn about their environment, their own capabilities, their own being, and their bodies through movement. Not exercise, but movement.  Being physical is how the human race learned to survive, find and procure food, keep away from danger, and maintain their tribe. It’s the only way in which the brain grows, creates neural connections and learns to embed memories. Even when we sit and read a book, our eyes move across the page. We don’t learn unless we move.

So today go out and take a walk. Notice what it feels like. Notice the swing of your arms, the movement in your legs. Pay attention. And enjoy being physical.