I just received a wonderful newsletter from a Hanna Somatics colleague in New Hampshire, Noreen Owen, announcing a new Somatic Movement series beginning July 18. The title of this blog post and the message, is taken from her newsletter. It addresses a common complaint people come to Hanna Somatic Educators with: loss of muscle function and freedom of movement due to arthritis.
Lack of proper muscle function is a major cause of arthritis.
There are many contributing factors to arthritis and there are many types of arthritis. (In this post I'm referring to the diagnosis many people are given when they have joint pain without swelling that causes them to feel tight and inflexible.)
Stiffness and joint pain is commonly diagnosed as arthritis, whether or not X-rays show deterioration in the bones. It is possible to have arthritis and have no pain, and it is possible to have joint pain and no arthritis. It is possible to have suffered many sports injuries over time and come away with no arthritis in the affected joint. Medication, physical therapy and "learning to live with it" are common prescriptions for arthritis.
Loss of muscle function causes stiffness and joint pain
Many people are told that arthritis causes their joint pain and stiffness. It is actually the loss of muscle function which causes stiffness and joint pain. There is a much more self-empowering option than medication or physical therapy and it produces long-term benefits: Hanna Somatics.
Your brain controls your muscles and movement. When muscles learn to stay tight and contracted due to stress (compensation due to a surgery or accident, over training in sports, emotional stress or repetitive movements), they literally lose their ability to relax voluntarily.Chronically contracted muscles put pressure on joints, making it difficult to move them freely. Learn how to restore voluntary muscle function and proper posture and those achy joints will have space to move properly.
Movement is the best prescription you could get for arthritis
I once thought I had arthritis in my knees. I had constantly achy knees and couldn't kneel for any length of time. I was only 44. My hip hurt and it would "catch" every once in a while, making it hard to walk smoothly. After "trying everything" I discovered Hanna Somatics and learned that what was ailing me wasn't arthritis, but Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA) - the condition of chronically tight and "frozen" muscles that had learned to stay tight due to stress.
I learned, without painful stretching or force, how to do simple movements that taught my brain to regain control and flexibility of the muscles in my body that were causing my pain. In less than one month of daily Somatic Exercise practice my hip pain was gone and I was able to go back to taking long walks and hikes, and aerobics classes.
Learning simple Somatic Exercises can teach you how to release and relax the muscles that inhibit your mobility and keep you from moving the way you once did. Somatic Exercises are slow and easy. In fact, the less effort you use, the more you will achieve. You will experience relief of stress and anxiety as you improve breathing, sleep, digestion, elimination, and energy level. And... your arthritis may no longer be an issue!
As we get older many of us pull back on our movement in deference to our daily obligations - kids, house, work, driving - and we forget to move. We also no longer live in a world in which our ability to move spells the difference between life and death. Our survival is now measured in the number of hours you can sit behind a computer, not the hours spent tilling fields, carrying wood or water, and having a strong body.
Here are a few simple ideas for maintaining a healthy body, arthritis or not:
- Somatic Exercises for restored muscle function
- More movement of every type for a strong body
- A balanced, sensible diet for optimum health
- Quiet, peaceful downtime for mental and emotional health
Contact Martha to learn how you can regain your mobility easily and effortlessly with Somatics. Visit the Essential Somatics® store for DVDs to help you with your Somatics Exercises in the comfort of your own home.