Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Somatics: Pain Relief Through Movement

I graduated from Physical Therapy with Leigh Boyles yesterday. I celebrated with a trip to the YMCA and a treadmill run. I wanted to run harder than I had been going and eventually ended the run at 5 miles at my fastest pace yet. It felt good. Some wobbling on the left side, but things are improving. I also had 4 trigger point injections in my left glutes on Friday. I think they have loosened things up a bit. I have been feeling tightness in my adductors at times and I also feel tight at the front of the left hip. I asked Leigh about this and she said that as the front of my hip loosens up (by pushing back as I run) the adductors should feel better.

 One thing that Leigh has been mentioning all along is that I have to retrain the way my brain works through proprioceptive work. This is something the Gait Guys have mentioned as well as Dr. Michaud in the past weeks. There was the mentioning, but finding out what to do about it is hard to do. Sure, some exercises and taping have helped me, I am running noticeably straighter, but how do you get your brain to change your whole-body movement patterns?

Last summer, right before my hip surgery, I discovered something called somatics through Martha Peterson's blog Pain Relief Through Movement and webpage. Some of her movements helped my hip in the weeks prior to my surgery when I was in Kenya. I received her DVD after I returned from Kenya and started going through it again post-surgery a while back. I have been doing the movements more frequently and then I got her newly published book Move Without Pain this month which has new exercises as well as guides to those on the DVD. It also includes a good overview of somatics.

It is a very simple to understand book to both read and use. The pictures and text structure make it easy to read and follow. While the DVD guides you through the exercises and the speed as to how to do them, the book is easier to pull out and review before doing an exercise. These are not exercises that will leave you stiff and sore like yoga or stretching can often do, but they are exercises that feel good and leave you feeling changed. I am not ready to thoroughly review the book at this time, but I do want to highlight the key ideas of somatics. You can read more here from Martha's blog.

1) Sensory Motor Amnesia- This happens when muscles are so tight that they will not relax. One thing that I found very interesting is something that Martha mentions in her book: what looks like a structural abnormality can be an issue of sensory motor function -tight muscles that won't relax. The point of somatics is that because the brain and nervous system control the muscles you have to engage the brain to unlock muscle patterns.

2) Three Reflex Patterns- In somatics there are full body reflex patterns that people us in reaction to stress. The Green Light Reflex involves an arching of constantly tight back muscles. The Red Light Reflex is another stress related posture with a rounded back due to anxiety or fear or from sitting all day hunched over a computer. The Trauma Reflex is a response to an accident or injury and involves a twist or rotation as a way to avoid injury or pain. This can lead to imbalances as your body gets stuck in this pattern.

3) Pandiculation- This is the somatic alternative to stretching. It works like a reset button. It involves making a tight contraction, followed by a slow release of the contraction to lengthen the muscle, and a complete relaxation at the end.

Somatics uses these ideas to help you rebuild your movement patterns and get rid of chronic pain. I highly recommend Martha's website, DVD (more are promised to come out soon), and her book Move Without Pain. It might just be the method to get you to get out of pain, move better, and to recover your stride.

I have emailed back and forth with Martha and she graciously offered to do a Skype session with me. I won't go into too much specifics, but will write down the things I need to remember before I forget them. It was an awesome experience to have someone so knowledgeable take a look at how I move, perform exercises, and offer me ideas to pursue.

We worked on the side-bend (one of the exercises I had found before going to Kenya that helped my sore hip and back before the labral-tear surgery). I learned some tips on doing this move, but most important, I need to slow down when doing it. Here is an tutorial for the side-bend.

We also worked on the back-lift (directions here) and then she gave me a different exercise for my tight illiopsoas that I don't recall as being in the book or on the first DVD but is found right here.

I was also told to check out this post on 3 common mistakes when doing Somatic exercises and this post on Standing Tall and Walking.

I had a valuable learning time with Martha on Skype (first time I have ever Skyped) and a thank Martha for her time, knowledge, and inspiration.

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