3 Tips to Deal with Recurring Muscle Pain

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If you've had tight muscles for a very long time, doing a few Somatic Movements or having one Clinical Somatics session will not make your muscle pain disappear overnight. These muscles have learned to remain "stuck" and contracted due to messages from your brain in response to trauma, stress, and postural compensations. It takes time to adjust to moving easily and efficiently again, while also absorbing the new sensory feedback you are experiencing. But what if you have already had several clinical sessions and are pain free, and old, nagging pain keeps coming back? Here are the top three tips for dealing with recurring muscle pain.

Tip 1: Do your Somatic Movement practice every day

When it comes to creating a new habit, repetition is key. You may find that, after a clinical session or a few Somatic Movements, you move more efficiently, have improved breathing, and a drastic reduction of functional muscle pain, but this does not mean that you have been "cured." Despite your newfound freedom of movement, your brain simultaneously wants to take you into your old habits (e.g. the way you slouch at your computer). These old habits are more familiar to your brain than the new, more relaxed and efficient movement that you have created through your somatic movement practice. Changing long terms habits takes time and patient repetition, so get on your mat and start moving!

Tip 2: Do a self check-in throughout the day

To have the effects of your daily Somatics practice last longer, it's critical to address your daily movement habits and be patient with gradual improvement. Being conscious of the way you walk, stand, or do any given daily activity is just as important. As you go about your day, check in with yourself (especially if you begin to feel pain or discomfort). Ask yourself

  • How you sit. Do you slump back on your pelvis, sit overly arched, or slightly twisted?
  • How you stand. Do you stand with an arched back, slumped chest, or more weight on one foot?
  • How you sleep. Do you curl yourself inward in a fetal position or lie relaxed on your back? 
  • How you walk. Do you step heavier on one foot than the other? Do you scuff your feet or walk on your toes? What part of your foot strikes the ground first?

Tip 3: Make the connection

Become aware of how your thoughts create muscle tension or spaciousness. Ask yourself why. Why do you slump at your desk at work? Why do you feel tense when you're driving? Why is your back arched when you are walking? Is there an underlying emotion attached to your actions?

Try this: Keep a journal of your somatic practice for two weeks. Write down which movements you do in your morning and evening practice. Write a few sentences about how you felt that day and what changes you felt. At the end of two weeks reflect back on your journal and note how many days you followed through on your practice. Then make the connection between your practice and what you felt in your body – emotionally and physically.

A patient, persistent practice will create new habits of awareness, posture and movement. The more consistent you are in applying your new awareness to all areas of your life, the more natural it will be. 

BONUS TIP: Take the Fundamentals Immersion Course

To delve deeper into your Somatics practice, participate in a Fundamentals Immersion Course, taught by a skilled Somatic practitioner. Over two days, you will integrate new changes to help you break through to the source of your recurring issue whether it be mental, emotional, physical, or occupational.

Register now for a Fundamentals Immersion Course near you!

Somatics in Calgary, AB

Debra Denison can stand and move for 30 minutes at a time after two years of intense chronic pain left her on crutches. Sue French is back to running after barely being able to walk for months due to severe back and hip pain.

Jude Ewan can finally move and control her arm after suffering a stroke that left her entire right side nearly paralyzed six years ago.

All three believe they have reclaimed their bodies and their lives because of simple exercises called Hanna Somatics.

I attended a Hanna Somatics training in Calgary this past summer. For the first time ever there were medical professionals in this training who understood that while manual bodywork has much to offer for those in pain, there was "something missing" in their perspective and their treatment plans. There was also Debra (mentioned above) who, for two years, had not been able to stand for morknob-hille than a few minutes at a time. She had rediscovered herself through Hanna Somatic Exercises and slow, gentle movement exploration. Yoga teachers and massage therapists also attended in a quest to deepen and "tweak" their perspective on their bodies, their own movement, and this concept they'd heard so much about: Sensory Motor Amnesia.

What came out of this training is an exceptionally well written article about Hanna Somatics and how its methods can transform the course of one's well-being as well as add "missing link" information to the medical perspective on chronic muscle pain, aging, repetitive stress and injury recovery.

READ THE ARTICLE FROM THE CALGARY HERALD HERE!

 

 

A Somatic Solution To Chronic Psoas Pain

Mike was a week away from leaving on a 5-week trip to Italy with his wife. He came to me quite concerned about his ability to walk without limping and dragging his right leg along behind him. "I was told that it's a problem with my psoas. Can you fix my psoas?" he asked. Every time I teach a Hanna Somatic Exercise Coach training I am asked the same two questions by bodyworkers, yoga teachers and medical professionals:

  • What do you do about a tight psoas?
  • What role does the psoas have in chronic pain?

I'm always curious about the obsession with the psoas, as if that one muscle controls the entire body. My answer is always the same:

It's never just one muscle causing the problem.

While one might sense that the psoas is the main problem and must be "fixed," it is never one muscle causing the problem. The brain doesn't experience you as one muscle, but as a synergistic system of coordinating muscles. There is always a full body pattern of muscular imbalance going on in the center of the body. This pattern has become habituated due to stress reflexes - accidents, injuries, repetitive movements or poor postural habits - so much so that this pattern has become "the new normal" for the brain. The painful psoas is the symptom; Sensory Motor Amnesia is the root cause.

The psoas is a very important stabilizer of the lower trunk and aids in smooth, efficient and coordinated walking. It coordinatesPsoasBackPull together, however, with other muscles of the trunk to move us forward in an easy, smooth gait. The psoas muscle can become tight and overly contracted as a result of habituation to any one of the Three Somatic Reflexes - the Red Light, Green Light or Trauma reflex. When our backs are overly contracted, the front of our bodies are slumped and collapsed inward, or one side of our torso tighter than the other, the psoas will work harder than necessary. Our pelvis will cease to swing freely and our gait will be labored and uneven. A chronically tight muscle that can no longer contract fully or release fully will and does contribute to chronic pain.

So what do you do about it?

In order to restore full muscle function and relieve the pain of a tight psoas you need to address the pattern of habituated muscle tension that is at the root of the problem. You must learn to release muscles of the back (that extend the spine), waist (that twist and bend us), and abdominals (that flex the spine) so that you have full, voluntary movement of the pelvis and all the muscles that control it.  This is precisely what Hanna Somatics teaches clients in both a clinical hands-on  session and when doing the Somatic Exercises.

Mike was taught to release his back muscles, which had become rigidly contracted due to years of carpentry and various construction accidents. In doing so he learned to regain balance in the center of his body. I taught him Arch and Flatten, Arch and Curl, the Back Lift , movements that helped the brain regain control of the back and front of the body. The he learned the Washrag, which released and lengthened the waist muscles for easier and more balanced twisting of the center. With the back muscles as well as the front and sides of his body a bit softer Mike could stand more easily on both legs. His walk became smooth and effortless and his pelvis moved when he walked. He experienced how his psoas wasn't his problem. His tight back muscles were!

"How does your psoas feel now?" I asked him. "Wow, I can't even feel it!" he replied. "I can't wait to get Italy and start walking."

 ***Most people benefit from a series of between four and six hands-0n sessions. The loss of voluntary muscle control takes place over time; therefore people need to take time to learn how to move well again. As I say to all my clients, "Rome wasn't built in a day..."

Sedentary Living is a Dangerous State of Being

Frank Forencich is the author of Change Your Body, Change The World and other books about human movement, health, and physical happiness. He is a pioneer in the field of  functional training and health education and one of my favorite teachers. The "standing Somatics" movements in my book, Move Without Pain, were inspired by some of the fun and functional play-based movements I learned at his seminars.

Frank wrote a wonderful endorsement for my book. In addition, he sent a note to my publisher:

I would like to see you put this warning on an opening page: "Before beginning a program of physical inactivity, see your physician. This warning would make the essential point that inactivity is the abnormal state. Movement is biologically and medically normal. Sedentary 'living' is the dangerous exception that requires professional oversight. Until health publishers make this point clear, readers will continue to live in fear of physical movement. We need to step up." 

Good point.  And yes, I did add his warning in my book!

Normally, people are advised to consult their doctors before undertaking an exercise routine. However, movement is not the expertise of doctors. While they understand that inactivity causes myriad health problems, they don't know how to help those patients who begin to lose their freedom of movement.

Most of the people I work with have run the gamut of doctors, surgery, drugs, physical therapy, massage, dry needling, and core strengthening. By the time I see them they have diagnosed themselves - correctly - with Sensory Motor Amnesia.  They are aware that they have forgotten how to move freely and how to control their movement, but they don't understand how it happened.

So how does one begin to restore freedom of movement? And more importantly, how does one let go of the fear of movement?

Simple facts about the brain and muscle connection can unlock the "mystery" of chronic pain and limited movement.

Let's clear up a few misconceptions about how limited muscle pain and limited movement develop:

  1. Limited movement doesn't happen to you; it develops from the inside out. This is due to stress responses such as accidents, injuries, surgeries, and ongoing repetitive stress.
  2. Most muscle pain problems are not the result of weak or faulty structure; they are the result of a loss of proper muscle control at the brain level.
  3. Your brain responses to everything that happens to you by contracting muscles in full-body patterns and habits. In order to regain movement, you need to retrain your brain to retrain your muscles so they can release, relax, and move freely again. Only you can change what's happening in your own body!

For those who are embarking on a program of fitness training or exercise I would suggest that you go back to the basics first: add Hanna Somatic Exercises to your routine. Test yourself and see if you have voluntary control over the major muscles of your core: the back, waist, and 1-At the Top of Table Mountain, in the Mt. Baker region, Washington State IMG_6587abdominal muscles. This is the safest and simplest method to restore somatic awareness and muscles control. No forceful stretching or painful procedures involved. Somatic awareness and mastery of "the basics" is what will enable you to climb the stairs un-aided at 90-years-old, carry your own groceries, run, or play with your kids.

When you get back in touch with your muscles you will regain control, become aware of even the smallest movements, and improve your coordination, balance, and proprioception through daily Somatic exercises. These exercises remind your brain how to control your muscles without the interference of Sensory Motor Amnesia.

The more we move, the more choices we have. We can look at a situation and assess how we'd like our bodies to respond: jump, break a fall, climb, squat, walk, run, tiptoe, hike, dance, lift, throw, carry. Movement mastery means freedom to be creative in our movement and chosen activities, age notwithstanding.