How Sensory Motor Amnesia Can Ruin Your Career

The Myth of Aging... and Injury

As a child, all I wanted to do with my life was dance.

At the age of 20 I left college and became a professional jazz dancer, but after only five years, and much anguish, I threw in the towel realizing that I had lost my form and could no longer dance the way I once did. My knees hurt all the time. Every time I thought I felt better, a new and different injury or pain would crop up.

I segued into modeling, teaching, and then massage therapy. In my mid-40s I  began to suffer from chronic hip pain that caused me to have to jettison one activity after another: kickboxing, step aerobics, running. I began to believe that which I'd been told by fellow dancers and doctors alike: "you're getting older, and after all those dance injuries, Martha, you probably have arthritis and will need knee replacements." I bought that idea hook, line and sinker. So I tried massage, Rolfing, chiropractic, acupuncture, stretching, physical therapy and yoga. Nothing helped my pain for the long term.

And then I was introduced to Hanna Somatic Education - and the concept of Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA).

How Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA) builds up over time

SMA is the state of habitually contracted muscles that have literally lost their physiological ability to release and relax. Gentle, easy Somatic Exercises helped me regain awareness of those "amnesic" muscles which had had to compensate time and again for one injury after another. I hadn't even noticed it happening! Within a very short period of time my hip and knee pain that had been plaguing me for decades went away. I could kneel for the first time in years!

Looking back on my accident history helped clarify the issue:

  • In college I'd torn the ligaments in my left ankle falling down the stairs. I hobbled around on crutches for over a month, compensating on my right side for my left sided injury.
  • I suffered an overuse injury to my right thigh three years later during a rehearsal the week before opening night. The show went on and I danced, compensating beautifully, and no one noticed how severely injured I was.
  • Then my knee issues began: First a surgery for a torn right meniscus and, a year later, two surgeries to shorten the ligaments on both sides of my knees, because my doctors insisted that I was "too flexible" and that that was the cause of my pain. Months on crutches once again.
  • 10 years later I had foot surgery for a painful bunion on my left foot (another month on crutches)
  • Another exploratory knee surgery, and a hamstring pull incurred while running

These are all examples of the Trauma Reflex which occurs reflexively in response to the need to avoid further injury or to nurture an injured limb.

A case of SMA, which started back in my teens, had set in motion a series of subsequent injuries born of muscular compensation. My brain could no longer coordinate my muscles to perform intricate movement patterns of dance - the result of years of sensory motor training.  Adaptive, accumulated muscle tension had caused my body to lose its balance, resulting in muscular asymmetry, tight, painful joints and unequal weight-bearing. Rather than notice imbalances in my posture or movement, the doctors saw the problem from a mechanical perspective: they surgically "fixed" what they understood to be the problem without ever questioning the origin of the problem. The surgeries didn't help in the long-run. My problem was functional in nature, not structural. One doctor I know phrased the issue beautifully:

"Hanna Somatics offers a scientifically sound method for the diagnosis and treatment of a whole range of complaints that frequently present as medical problems, such as fibromyalgia, pain syndromes and fatigue, but have their real origin in learned, often readily corrected postural errors."

–Bill Hanson, MD, Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School

Hanna Somatic Education taught me to move freely again. It gave me back my life and the ability to choose how I want to move. For those who have suffered accidents, injuries, surgeries or repetitive motion injuries, the muscle pain and stiffness you feel is reversible once you teach the brain to sense and move your muscles again. It just might give you back your livelihood!