Are you suffering with pain from an old injury? Or do you have unexplained pain throughout your body that has been unresponsive to medical treatments? Do you have intense pain in your arm and neck that prevents you from moving functionally? Do you have pain that Medical Professionals say is “in your head” and offers no remedy? Are you often tired and cannot participate in sustained physical activity/sports? If you have any of these, you may be experiencing Chronic Pain.
Chronic Pain is one of the more challenging conditions to treat using the conventional Medical and Physiotherapy models because in Chronic Pain, the source of the symptoms has moved beyond the original tissue injury or trauma (causing Acute Pain), usually from serious accidents. Chronic Pain can also be triggered by emotional traumas so it occurs without a preceding physical incident/injury, usually rendering conventional treatments ineffective.
After a significant injury involving tissue damage, especially repetitive incidents, the Chronic Pain process begins. The Central Nervous System misfires, sending erroneous Pain signals throughout the system and to the Brain. This process can also be initiated by sudden emotional episodes, such as a loss of a loved one, a significant change in one’s life, a traumatic experience, etc.
In normal situations, Pain is a response to the limbic system sensing danger via signals from nerve endings that travel to the Brain via the Spinal Cord. This necessitates us to take evasive and corrective actions to ensure our safety.
From birth, our Central Nervous System or CNS develops by learning how to perform functions that help us stay alive. These functions involve the regulation of our respiratory, digestive, circulatory, ingestion, etc systems. As we grow, the CNS continues to improve to support our lives and safety, with pain and fear sensations/emotions become the reference points.
When a person is in Chronic Pain, their reference points become inaccurate and amplified resulting in Pain Catastrophizing (an exaggerated negative mental set brought to bear during actual or anticipated painful experience) and Fear Avoidance (the anticipated threat of intense pain will often result in the constant vigilance and monitoring of pain sensations, which, in turn, can cause even low-intensity sensations of pain to become unbearable for the person).
These two phenomena are linked to changes in the Grey Matter of the Brain. The person’s quality of life suffers, creating further emotional and physical degeneration.
The Pain Center of the Brain is located next to the Somatosensory and Motor areas. These 3 areas overlap and affect each other. Which allows us to create a positive change in the Pain Center by utilizing the Somatosensory and Motor areas to influence our pain response process through Neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to change it’s neural connections). This is where The Feldenkrais Method can be an effective approach to treating Chronic Pain.
The Feldenkrais Method is a form of somatic education and it comes in two forms. A voice guided mode called Awareness Through Movement (ATM) and a hands-on mode called Functional Integration (FI). These two modes involve the exploration of gentle movement patterns (usually lying down) while emphasizing the awareness of the breath and body sense. This mind-body training taps into the Somatosensory and Motor areas of the Brain which in turn triggers neuroplasticity in the Pain Center, gradually reversing the changes of Chronic Pain.
The focus on mind-body awareness in the Feldenkrais Method also affects the HPA Axis (Hypothalamus, Pituitary and Adrenal glands), normalizing the regulation of hormones (especially Cortisol) that was disrupted by the Chronic Pain dynamics.
Awareness Through Movement (ATM) – Description by FGNA
“Usually conducted in a group class setting that lasts between 30-60 minutes. Participants might walk, stand, or sit in a chair, although usually, participants will lie on the floor in a variety of comfortable positions: either on the back, front, or side. The Practitioner guides the participants through a sequence of movements, encouraging them to move with gentle attention within a comfortable range. Participants may become aware of unexpected and interesting connections within and between the movements. As one attends to the improving quality of movement, unnecessary muscular tensions throughout the body can reorganize and release. Participants are often amazed at the quick and clear changes that occur through the neuromuscular repatterning that happens in an Awareness Through Movement lesson.”
Functional Integration (FI) – Description by FGNA
“Usually conducted one-on-one with the participant lying on a table, In Functional Integration, the Feldenkrais Practitioner guides an individual participant in movement lessons using gentle, non-invasive touch as the primary means of communication.
The Practitioner’s touch reflects to the participant how they currently organize their body and actions. They suggest, through gentle touch and movement, expanded possibilities for new movement patterns which are more comfortable, efficient, and useful. Functional Integration lessons are flexible in their approach, determined by the Participant’s needs. The Participant may lie comfortably on a table designed specifically for the work, or do some of the lesson sitting or standing. As needed, the Practitioner may also use various props to support the student’s comfort, to make certain movements easier, or to clarify a movement.
Each Functional Integration lesson relates to a desire, intention, or need of the Participant. The process is carried out without the use of any invasive or forceful procedure. Through rapport and respect for the Particpant’s abilities, qualities, and integrity, the Practitioner creates an environment in which the student can learn in safety and comfort. The lesson is developed, specifically for the Participant, custom-tailored to the unique circumstances of that particular person, at that particular moment. The Participant learns how to reorganize their actions in new and more effective ways through the experience of comfort, enjoyment, and ease of movement.”
The Feldenkrais Method can be effective in treating Chronic Neck and Back Pain, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and Reflex Sympathetic Distrophy (RSD), Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Delay. To some extent, neurological conditions like MS, ALS, post CVA can also benefit from this method because of its Neuroplastic effects on the brain. Performance artists and athletes use this method to improve performance and to prevent injuries.
For more information on The Feldenkrais Method, please visit www.feldenkrais.com