Dr. Feldenkrais created an educational system that consists of movement lessons designed to improve our every day functions: lifting, turning, reaching, bending, sitting, walking and more.
Working with people who have chronic pain, I learned that the Feldenkrais Method is an ideal approach not only for the management of pain but living with more comfort over time.
As a Feldenkrais practitioner I evaluate movement patterns: I observe how movement is organized and where it is stuck or compensated. My goal then is to help restore well-organized movement. When living with pain, the body adapts to various compensation patterns. The result can be stiffness, overuse, forceful movement or hardly any movement at all. This can create endless patterns of dysfunction, creating further deterioration, tension and pain. When working with the client it is as if “peeling the onion”; we want to re-establish natural pathways in which movement can happen easily and without much effort.
A healthy body can feel all the distinctions of sensations when the body changes position, moves or is exposed to pressure. We are in “kinesthetic balance”. When we live in constant pain, the ability to feel subtle changes of sensation is disturbed. Since the Feldenkrais Method works with kinesthetic and proprioception, the individual can re-learn to feel and sense the broad spectrum of sensations that our bodies are exposed to and experience all the time. I find that experience so invaluable since it provides an opportunity to distract from the debilitating pain and focus on other experiences in the body; therefore expanding our awareness of oneself. We become aware again of what the body wants, needs and how it moves. And we realize that pain is not everywhere.
Chronic pain has a big impact on self-image. The individual’s identity is circled around pain. When my clients fill out a body chart to indicate the areas of pain at their first visit, at times there is hardly any area left that is pain-free. When such is the case, we start with very gentle and easy awareness exercises. This includes breathing, one powerful tool of the Feldenkrais Method. Becoming aware of our breathing helps to restore it; breathing fuller promotes relaxation and makes us feel better.
Shifting the focus and finding parts in the body that don’t hurt, including the breath, is often an introduction to the rehabilitation process. One other important part of pain management is to re-learn staying focused, other than on the pain. The brain seems stuck with pain signals and is challenged to think of anything other than pain. The Feldenkrais exercises help to improve thinking and concentration allowing all neuronal connections in the brain to function more smoothly, providing us with greater spontaneity in our thinking and attention.
What makes the Feldenkrais method successful when working with people with chronic pain is its focus on creating a safe environment, making each lesson safe and successful, its emphasis on having choices, inclusion of the mental and emotional being and work in a non-rushed pace. My clients typically leave the session feeling better, surprised that they are not in more pain and that they can move in ways they did not know they can.
Working with people with chronic pain teaches me patience but more importantly, it teaches me that there is no quick fix but rather an endless array of opportunities that help restore the body (and person), one small increment at a time. This is when we have to detach from our cultural background that taught us that “faster, bigger and more forceful is better”.
The message here is “small is powerful”. May be we all need this reminder at times to keep our bodies safe and healthy.
Please contact Marion Kregeloh at 415.479.1765 for further information.
Marin Movement Center Physical Therapy in San Rafael and Larkspur