To PT or Not to PT

One of my clients recently suggested I read an interesting article in the New York Times about physical therapy. It was indeed interesting, because there are many different views on physical therapy. My personal experience with PTs has been purely one of post-operative rehab. I like my PT because he's not a big believer in movement that has no inherent function (such as the hip adductor machine). He taught me functional movements that helped me get my gait back, and said, "go outside and figure out how to make your own workout." Now that's good advice.

Does PT even work?

As the New York Times article discusses, physical therapy is often the first line of defense for doctors whose patients have chronic muscular pain despite clear diagnostics. PT is paid for by most insurance, yet the jury's still out as to whether or not it's actually is effective in treating chronic muscular pain for the long-term. I've met several very capable PTs who utilize myriad methods that help their patients feel better. But my concern arises from the large number of the people who come to me after weeks or months of PT because they simply do not feel better and have not regained their freedom of movement.

What can I do to experience results when recovering from an injury?

In my experience, the most effective way to eliminate chronic muscle pain is through education, not treatment. When muscles are chronically tight, as in the case of low back pain, it's because the muscles have habituated to whatever stress the person has adapted. Inherent in that is a full body pattern of contraction. From a somatic point of view, the function of the muscles needs to be changed in order for the muscles to relax and the pain to go away. The client has to learn to do that for him/herself.

Many PTs think that a muscle or joint is painful because it's weak. Often that's true, but in many cases it's not. In contrast to PTs, Hanna Somatic Educators learn to look at a client as a whole when treating pain or physical restriction in a certain part of the body. We want to know where the full body restriction is keeping the client from moving efficiently, or what full body pattern of holding is causing the pain. Where is the Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA)? What is the client doing every day in order to teach the muscles to stay tight like that? How did the client respond reflexively to the trauma that might have taken place? How did they compensate?

Physical therapy has its place and is terrific post operatively or after a physical tear or break. I'm looking forward to the time when PTs and Hanna Somatic Educators can combine their training for maximum effect. I also look forward to a time when a doctor will give you a referral to a Hanna Somatic Educator if you are experiencing "unexplained" pain or movement restriction.