A Competitive Runner – Back and Better Than Ever

 

Susan was a runner on the track team at New York University. She’d been sidelined for almost a year from serious competition and had been treated by physical therapists, doctors, orthopedists, and massage therapists. There was one thing everyone agreed upon: her psoas was tight and involved in her pain, but no one knew what to do about it.

Her complaints were very specific and all right sided: pain in the right hip/groin, hip flexors and right buttock down the right leg. A visual assessment showed that her left foot was slightly inverted, and her right arm held slightly out from her body. She had an exaggerated sway in her back, which caused her to lock her knees. Her left latissimus dorsii were pulled back and down as well, creating a twist in her torso.

She’d had an emergency appendectomy and at one point had broken both her arms. There was an obvious imbalance in her pelvis imbalance and leg length discrepancy on her right side with a noticeable tightening around the right pelvis. She’d been running indoor track competitively; sprints were run counterclockwise around a track, so her training and running created a pattern of left sided contraction and right sided compensatory balancing and co-contraction.

We began with work focused on the trunk rotators of the body, addressing the “trauma reflex” muscles – the latissimus, obliques and abdominals in addition to the adductors and abductors of both legs. This relaxed the exaggerated twisting in her torso and pelvis. Her leg length evened out immediately. We finished by releasing the psoas muscle on her right side. I taught her a short series of movement patterns (exercises) that she was to do at home, twice a day, in order to maintain her progress and restore voluntary control of her muscles. While slightly sore the next day, by the second day she was completely pain free.

Over the course of the next several weeks, we addressed the exaggerated lower lumbar curve, releasing the extensor muscles of her back and the muscles of her left shoulder, which were pulled back and down, thus pushing her right hip forward. Again we went through releases of the latissimus, obliques and abdominals on her left side. The next step was to address SMA Sensory Motor Amnesia within the dynamics of walking. Shannon learned to release and relax the muscles of the pelvic girdle for easier walking and more cross lateral movement. We added more exercises to her daily routine, all of them focused on the mechanics of walking.

Susan had her gait and running cadence assessed at a sports clinic and reported that she was told that her stride and form were perfect! She was pain free with a smooth cadence. Additional sessions were no longer needed, so we made a plan for her return to running: I advised her to get back to running very slowly, first focusing on the simple awareness of her walking. When walking felt smooth and effortless, with hips swinging naturally and shoulders loose, she should move into a slow run. This program of a gradual transition from walking to jogging to running worked well for her and allowed her to somatically incorporate that which she had learned, replacing asymmetrical compensation with full body coordination and cortical control.

The next running season Susan was back on the NYU team. She finished the season as the top seeded runner on the team and commented to me that were it not for Somatics she would never have made a comeback at all!

I saw Susan a full two years later and she reported that she not only maintains a daily Somatic Exercise routine, which now takes the place of her traditional pre-workout stretching routine, but that she has remained pain free and injury free.

 

FREE Move Without Pain E-mail Course

Learn how to relieve your chronic muscle pain. For the next five days, join Martha Peterson as she guides you through a series of safe, gentle movements designed to alleviate common neck, shoulder, back, hip and leg issues.

Your information is kept private and you will not receive spam.

No More Chronic Back Pain

 

Laura came to me at the age of 45. She had spent 20 years as a nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit and was on her feet for twelve hour shifts four days a week.  She’d raised three children, mostly without the help of her husband, who worked long hours. Low back pain had plagued her for over five years, to the point where she decided to seek medical advice. Her doctor told her that a laminectomy of L4/L5 was the only option. She took it.

The surgery relieved her pain for a short period of time, and then her pain came back in full force. Nothing had changed.  She went for chiropractic adjustments weekly for several months, which again only yielded short-term relief.When I met the first thingI did was to palpate her back muscles, They were taut and rigid.  She stood with her lower back straight while her upper back was slightly rounded, causing her shoulders to slump forward. In taking her history she told me that she had had a very difficult childhood, which she was sure had resulted in a habituated startle reflex. Her right hip was slightly higher than her left, which she felt had come from years of holding her growing children on her right hip.

We began our work by addressing the taut muscles of her back. Because Laura had to stand all day at her job it was important that she become aware of the “green light reflex” (Landau Response) and how to relax the back muscles when she finished work.  She learned to contract and release her back muscles while prone, and while sitting.  She reported instant relief in her low back. In subsequent sessions we worked with her waist muscles to even out her leg length and allow for more movement of the hips. We also addressed the muscles of the front of the body in order to allow her to stand up to a neutral and balanced straight posture. This allowed for a more natural curve in her lumbar spine.  She found that her breathing improved after this particular lesson.

Laura does her Somatic Movements daily and has reported no recurrence of chronic back pain in several years. She takes weekly dance classes and is enjoying an active life while continuing to work as a nurse practitioner in a busy hospital.

 

FREE Move Without Pain E-mail Course

Learn how to relieve your chronic muscle pain. For the next five days, join Martha Peterson as she guides you through a series of safe, gentle movements designed to alleviate common neck, shoulder, back, hip and leg issues.

Your information is kept private and you will not receive spam.

Sciatica – Off Painkillers, To Her Doctor's Amazement

 

Ellen had had searing pain down her left leg for over a year. She told me, “I’m not sure you can help me, but I’ve got nothing left to lose.” She was 72.  She was a excellent example of how combining medical protocols (she took the painkiller Lyrica, for nerve pain) and Hanna Somatics helped her to become pain-free.

One look at Ellen made it clear why she had pain down one leg: her hips were completely twisted and her upper torso tilted precariously over to one side, while the opposite hip tightened to keep her in balance. Sheila insisted that she had never suffered any major accident that she could remember. She said that this condition just seemed to appear “out of nowhere.”  She had trouble walking long distances, but no trouble sitting. She didn’t want to sit for the rest of her life!

Figure 1

Figure 1

In Figure 1, you can see Ellen's typical scoliotic posture: one hip higher than the other with the same side shoulder pulled down, a pelvis that twisted forward and up, and an opposite shoulder that contracted to counterbalance her weight. The goal for Ellen was to get her to sense the difference between tilting to the right and standing at a neutral straight.

During the first session we focused on regaining awareness and movement in the trunk rotators of the torso so she could bend to both the right and left sides of her body. This was a challenge for her; she’d literally forgotten how to move her hips up and down and had been walking with no movement in her spine for years.

We then addressed the muscles of the back of the body for easier extension of her back muscles. Ellen was soon able to contract and relax her back muscles, which helped to ease the pain in her buttock and down her leg. Over several sessions, however, she regained coordination of cross lateral movement of her shoulders and hips (as in walking) as well as the ability to move her ribcage side to side. Her walking became smoother.  She attended classes every once in a while, including a workshop for legs and hips.

Most important of all, Ellen learned and practiced a daily minute routine of gentle sensory motor movements that reinforced and integrated the new habits she had created. She was diligent about practicing these movements -  and it wasn't easy. It took patience and awareness for her to reacquaint herself with certain movement patterns that she hadn't performed in decades.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Over the course of several months I saw Ellen six times. She then decided to come once a month for a “tune up” in order to slowly continue her progress.

Figure 2 is Ellen after only ten months of Somatics. Notice her straight posture and level shoulders! She now stands with weight on both legs.

One day Sheila came to me and announced,“I’ve stopped all my painkillers and am completely out of pain. I told my neurologist and he said that it’s not possible. I assured him it is.” Her diligence and patient practice has had paid off.  With the help of Lyrica, she was able to do certain movements that retrained her muscles to relax. Once she relaxed her muscles, her pelvis returned to neutral, her leg length evened out and her nerve pain disappeared.  Sheila has been pain-free, back to gardening, playing with her grandchildren, and traveling for over four years now. 

 

FREE Move Without Pain E-mail Course

Learn how to relieve your chronic muscle pain. For the next five days, join Martha Peterson as she guides you through a series of safe, gentle movements designed to alleviate common neck, shoulder, back, hip and leg issues.

Your information is kept private and you will not receive spam.

Scoliosis and Pregnancy Don't Have to Be Painful

 
I originally went to see Martha when I was pregnant. I was having a debilitating sharp pain that would randomly run down the front of my leg, especially while driving. I would have to pull over to the side of the road until it passed. The pain went away after the second or third session. That’s when I knew that Somatics really worked. Since then, I have routinely done the Somatic Movements and the special calf releases. I no longer wear my orthotics. The freedom to wear “normal” shoes has helped my self-esteem and my anxiety about my health problems.
— Anne, Maplewood, NJ

Anne called me and said, "No one will touch me, and I'm wondering if you can help me." She explained that she was seven months pregnant with her second child, had scoliosis and was suffering from severe pain in her left hip, groin and ribs. When I asked her why no one would work with her, she said that everyone said they didn't know what was wrong, and it might be dangerous. Instinctively she knew that tight muscles were causing pain. She was correct.

One look at Anne told me that years of compensating due to accidents was at the root of her muscular pain. This proved to be correct. I knew that if I could teach her to feel her waist muscles again and begin to move her hips, she'd feel much better.  Anne's left side was much tighter than her right side, (as in the photo on the right) and her left hip was drawn upward. Her right ribs twisted back and downward, and her weight was pitched more onto her right foot.  She showed a typical "trauma reflex" - a reflexive muscular holding pattern that occurs in response to an accident or injury.

This is also the pattern of holding that creates scoliosis: a trauma at an early age (she'd been in a leg cast for months as a baby) can cause one to have to compensate until the injury heals. This leaves the waist muscles tighter on one side than the other and causes the ribcage to twist in compensation.  The muscles, which attach to the spine, pull the spine out of alignment during the growth spurt that occurs during adolescence. Co-contraction occurs in the shoulder and back on the other side of the body.

After three  hour long sessions that involved learning to release and relax the muscles on the left side of her body - the waist, shoulder and rib muscles (including the muscles of her legs) - and the back muscles and ribs on the right side of her body - she found she was able to breathe deeply for the first time in months.

The nagging pain in her groin was greatly diminished. Learnng to contract, lengthen and release her overly-tight muscles was both pleasurable, and easy. Anne and I had several more clinical sessions over the course of two months, re-programming her movement and muscle control.  She wanted to make absolutely sure that when the new baby arrived she could handle all the lifting, holding, and nursing she would need to do.

Anne is doing very well; her baby is now two years old, and to date, the pain she arrived in my office with is gone. She continues to do a few minutes of Somatic Exercises a day in addition to taking care of her growing family. Every once in a while she comes in for a "tune-up" just to keep herself "on track" and in control of her body.

 

FREE Move Without Pain E-mail Course

Learn how to relieve your chronic muscle pain. For the next five days, join Martha Peterson as she guides you through a series of safe, gentle movements designed to alleviate common neck, shoulder, back, hip and leg issues.

Your information is kept private and you will not receive spam.