For Physicians

What is Hanna Somatic Education?

Hanna Somatic Education (also known as Clinical Somatic Education) is a highly effective method of sensory motor training that confers rapid results. It directly addresses the root cause of most chronic muscular pain: the brain and the way in which it senses and controls the muscles and movement. We teach people to reverse chronic muscular pain conditions that develop from the brain's habituation to stress reflexes, injuries, surgeries or on-going stress. A systemically powerful and beneficial side-effect of HSE is the shift of the nervous system from a sympathetic state to a parasympathetic state.

The Root Cause of Chronic Muscle Pain

The clinical research and experience of Thomas Hanna, Ph.D. shows that our sensory motor system loses voluntary control of sensation, muscles and movement in response to accidents, injuries, surgeries, compensation, and physical and emotional stress. This creates Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA), the condition of chronically contracted muscles that have become habituated and involuntary within the central nervous system. The end result of Sensory Motor Amnesia is diminished proprioception and motor control, poor posture, and limited joint mobility.

Hanna Somatic Education (HSE) tackles this issue of SMA by improving the connection between the brain and nervous system. Most chronic muscle pain that people experience is caused by SMA. Hanna Somatic Educators use the technique of pandiculation to teach clients to rapidly reduce muscle tension and improve voluntary muscle function. Pandiculation – the same gentle lengthening exhibited in animals when they “stretch” – occurs in the nervous system and gives sensory and motor feedback to the brain in order to reset the muscle length and tonus.

Function Vs. Structure

Sensory Motor Amnesia changes the way in which we move. HSE is a paradigm shift. The medical world generally views a patient with muscle pain as a body with parts that need to be fixed, not unlike a car or bicycle. Hanna Somatic Educators view the client as a sensory motor being – a full-body system – whose awareness and muscle function needs to be reeducated. SMA does not show up on an MRI, CT scan or blood test. It is experienced by the patient from the inside-out, therefore the only person who can improve their sensory motor system and relax involuntarily contracted muscles is the patient.

Many conditions that are viewed as structural in nature or the result of “weak” muscles are actually the result of muscle dysfunction. If an individual has SMA long enough, however, it can create a structural deficit. SMA in the waist can cause the need for a hip replacement because of years of uneven weight distribution thats grinds out the hip socket. A herniated disc, caused by tight back muscles on one side of the body can cause nerve damage. Strength training can only serve to “strengthen” the pain.

SMA is a full-body adaptive pattern of involuntary muscle contraction that comes to the surface as aches, pains, diminished proprioception, limited movement and contributes to, but is not limited to the following conditions:

  • Chronic back pain
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Knee and foot pain
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Tension headaches
  • Scoliosis
  • Leg length discrepancy
  • Altered gait
  • TMD
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Hip pain
  • Joint pain
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Shallow breathing
  • Limited range of motion
  • Sciatica
  • Psoas pain

All of these conditions are effectively addressed with Hanna Somatic Education.

HSE can teach your patients to reverse chronic muscular pain patterns in 4-6 clinical sessions. Most of my clients come to me after having spent hundreds and often thousands of healthcare dollars, only to realize that their problem was a lack of awareness of their muscles and movement, and excessive muscle tonus. Many approaches (chiropractic, massage, physical therapy) expect patients go for up to 20 sessions before any long term relief is expected. HSE is an excellent complement to medical care. By addressing the connection between the central nervous system and the muscles, habituated pain patterns and muscular dysfunctional can be reversed rapidly and effectively.

If you have a patient who isn’t responding for the long term to the best medical care you can offer, they may be suffering from Sensory Motor Amnesia.

Strengthen Your Pain

The three stress reflex patterns of muscular contraction are the brain’s response to sustained physical, emotional, or occupational stress. HSE methodically targets the stress reflexes and teaches the client to rapidly and efficiently reverse acute muscle pain. It is more effective than simply targeting one muscle group or body part because the muscle is viewed as “weak.”  No amount of Pilates or strength training through PT is going to solve a chronic muscle pain condition for the long term. While one body part may have been injured or overused, there is always a full-body compensatory pattern of contraction that must be addressed.

These “weak” muscles are in fact so strong that they cannot let go; they are involuntarily contracted at the brain level. Constantly contracted muscles are fatigued, have limited range of motion and are muscles that the brain cannot recruit properly. If a patient does strength training and exercise for these “weak” muscles, all they are truly doing is deepening their pattern of SMA and strengthening their pain. A patient will get the most out of PT after eliminating their SMA and continuing with their Somatic Exercises to maintain voluntary control of their muscular system.

Traumatic injury or surgery creates sensory motor compensation and the need to adapt to a sudden change in circumstances. It can adversely affect one’s gait and overall movement. In these circumstances PT is often crucial and it is enhanced by HSE. HSE is highly effective in teaching patients to regain a smooth gait and fluid, efficient, and coordinated voluntary control of muscles. Referring patients for HSE can save healthcare dollars in the long-run while teaching a patient responsibility and control over his or her body. 

Through deliberate and specific attention to reversing reflexive patterns of muscular habituation, patients can improve sensory awareness and proprioception, balance muscles and reverse harmful compensatory movement habits. Symmetrical posture is also restored, even in cases of scoliosis, especially when addressed early on. 

The Importance of Movement

The movement practice, an integral part of the Hanna Somatic Education approach, teaches self-care skills and techniques that help patients reinforce the progress they make in each clinical session. This self-care program fosters responsibility and participation in a client’s own recovery as they begin to experience a lessening of their muscle pain. HSE is a cost-effective alternative to drugs and surgery for patients whose muscles and movement are restricted and painful. HSE is also complementary for the treatment of patients with arthritis, multiple sclerosis, scoliosis, stenosis, and post-breast cancer surgery.

Contact and Further Information

You can email Martha Peterson (martha@essentialsomatics.com) to discuss a patient’s case. Ms. Peterson will follow up with you about your patient and his/her progress.

Hanna Somatic Education is not covered by medical insurance. All sessions of Somatic Education are subject to sales tax in New Jersey, unless prescribed by a physician. Prescriptions for Hanna Somatic Education are under the category of “Neuromuscular Re-education.”

This website does not contain medical advice. It is intended for informational and educational purposes only and not for the purpose of rendering medical advice. It is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your healthcare provider for personalized medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment because of something you have seen on this website.

 

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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.
— William Hanson, MD - Professor of Critical Care at University of Pennsylvania Medical Center
The longer you train, the harder you compete and the higher you strive..the more you need Martha Peterson. Somatics is, without question, the simplest, fastest way to literally “forget” and overcome training errors.
— Dan John, strength coach and author of "Never Let Go"
Martha’s workshop in London was a brilliant way for me to introduce Somatics to friends. Once you understand the science behind the exercises and feel the benefits...there really is no turning back. Life-changing.
— Paul French - writer, London, England