Do you have any idea how you keep your balance and why you re-injure yourself?
Are you aware, when you go off balance, why you go off balance? You’re not alone.
For most people, improving balance seems to be a matter of effort: You have to do something to keep your balance.
The more this is true, the more off-balance you are.
Test my words. Stand up and slowly bend forward. If you sway as you bend, you’re not adjusting well to changes of position. Something in you is holding tight, preventing the adjustments of position that maintain balance — something that you may not have known was there. You’ll notice that you have to do something (tense up) to maintain balance. That’s the definition of awkwardness: a tense moment.
Easy balance has to do with the free responsiveness of your entire muscular system to changes of position. Even the slightest change of position involves minute changes of tension throughout the body. As long as you are free from tension, those changes occur automatically and you have easy balance even in odd positions.
It’s likely that those places where you hold tight are places where you experience pain. The pain comes from the fatigue of muscles held tight all the time. The tension comes from conditioning — either the conditioning of long-term stress, which creates nervous tension in the muscles, or the conditioning of past injury, which involves a cringe response that has outlasted the healing of damaged skin, muscle, ligament or bone. That kind of tightness also compresses joints (leading to arthritis) or nerves (i.e., pinched nerves or nerve impingement).
Because that kind of tension interferes with balance, it makes you more vulnerable to further injury. That’s why elderly people are prone to falls and athletes are prone to re-injury.
People can’t stretch or strengthen away such conditioning; you may have noticed. They cantrain it away by relearning how to relax where they have been too tight and by learning to move better. The result: better balance, better agility, better strength. Better balance, healthier movement, less likelihood of injury.
People who have failed the good balance test, on first try, find that they can pass it by practicing some somatic education exercises. Entire postural shifts in the direction of better balance occur without having to mind good posture. They’re both well balanced and loose.
Somatic education exercises get their results in a way different from active, isolated stretching. They use a kind of “regulated power stretching” completely different from what you might expect. Here’s how:
People who have more severe injuries and pain can have their comfort restored by clinical somatic education sessions. It’s faster than therapy and something you can do by yourself.
Do you have an injury? Learn about your condition here.
Popular belief holds that the pains and stiffness of aging are inevitable and to be expected: that aging results from time passing. “You’re just getting older,” your doctor and your family say, and there the conversation usually stops.
The thinking is that your parts are wearing out, and that they’re supposed to. It’s how people think of the human body — as a “marvelous machine.”
Don’t buy it. There’s more to it than the passage of time and the human body is more than a marvelous machine. You are more than a marvelous machine, aren’t you?
While certain aspects of aging are linked to our genetic destiny, other changes have nothing to do with our genetic destiny, but with how injuries and stress leave their marks upon us as changes of movement-memory, of muscular tension, and of posture. Those changes are, in most cases, within our power to to reverse, normalize, and improve to superior levels.
Is there a hidden and larger significance to the observation that active people age better than relatively inactive people? There is. (It goes along with the saying, “Retirement is the waiting room for death.”)
There exists a seemingly innocent condition that underlies much of the pain and stiffness attributed to aging: accumulated muscular tension. Accumulated muscular tension underlies the joint compression and breakdown diagnosed as osteoarthritis.
Accumulated muscular tension often goes unnoticed because it builds so gradually that we get used to it, because we don’t recognize the significance of poor posture, and because medical practitioners are not trained to recognize its larger significance — other than at the sites of pain or grossly restricted movement. Desensitized as we are to our own condition, muscular tension accumulates and so do the consequences: being off balance and prone to falls, feeling tired all the time, depressed mood, and the appearance of chronic ailments. Accumulated muscular tension is a drain, an inconvenience, a degradation of life, and ultimately, a hazard.
By dispelling accumulated muscular tension and preventing tension from accumulating, you can prevent your joints from degenerating, improve your movement and balance, and feel more energetic; you can reclaim much of your flexibility. You can forego the cane, get off the walker, or avoid the wheelchair.
It takes more than massage. It takes self-grooming of a particular kind — the kind that removes the lingering effects of injuries (the limp), purges the stresses of life (the stoop or bad back), and liberates you from the ten thousand shocks flesh is heir to (pain).
This entry talks exactly about that form of self-grooming (it’s not strengthening, stretching, or cardiovascular exercise, not diet — but something rather more direct and immediately effective). Because it’s new, you’ll learn something, here.
THE OBVIOUS SIGN OF APPROACHING DECREPITUDE
Here’s a leading question: How can you tell an “aged” person at a distance? It’s by their posture and movement, isn’t it? Our posture goes into our habitual way of moving.
Much has been attributed to osteoporosis and osteopenia — loss of bone density — as causing changes of posture. While true to some degree, it’s largely a “red herring”; muscular tensions cause much more postural change than does osteoporosis. Muscle tension shapes our posture, limits our flexibility, and affects our comfort. The posture of aging reveals accumulated muscular tensions that you may have carried for years, largely without knowing it.Does this seem all too obvious? Then why don’t most people do something about it? Why do so many people resign themselves to the cane, the walker, the wheelchair?
Maybe, it’s because the usual methods of muscular conditioning and therapy don’t work very well; maybe it’s because people get so tight and stay so tight that their joints break down. Have yours?
SOURCES OF PAIN AND STIFFNESS
When muscles get tight and stay tight, they cease to be elastic; they restrict movement. That sense of restriction is what people confuse with stiff joints and call “stiff muscles”. (Muscles can’t get stiff; they can only tense or relax.)Muscles held tight for more than a few seconds get sore and prone to spasm (cramp) — the proverbial “burn” of exercise that athletic trainers say to go for. It’s muscle fatigue, nothing more glamorous than that. It’s the product of tight muscles, an unhealthy sign, when it persists.
Muscles held tight days, weeks, and years compress the joints they pass across; joint pain, breakdown, inflammation and dissolution follow. The name for cartilage breakdown and inflammation is, arthritis (literally translated from Latin: “inflammation of a joint”). Even if there were a genetic origin to arthritis, it would be in addition to this compression process, which causes joint breakdown all by itself.
The combination of muscle fatigue (soreness) and joint compression create much of the chronic pain and stiffness of aging.
“Sore to the Touch”
Most people are sore to the touch in one place or another — not because they are “old”, but because they are tight, and their muscles, fatigued.The problem exists, however, not in the muscles themselves, but in the brain that controls them. The problem is one of “muscle/movement memory”, which controls movement, tension level, and posture.
The reason why skeletal adjustments, massage and stretching so often provide only temporary relief is that muscle/movement memory runs the show. You may temporarily force muscles to relax with massage or a quick stretch, but of muscle/movement memory is set to a high tension level, we get tense, again, in short order — whether hours or days.
Forming Tension Habits
People go through a lifetime doing either one of two things: tensing or relaxing.Think back to a time in your life when you were in a stressful situation — one that you knew might last a while or that lasted longer than you expected. Notice how you feel when thinking about it. Do you tense or relax, thinking about it? How were you, then?
Did you manage your tension or ignore it? Did you turn your attention to “more important things”? Did you get used to your tension? If so, you probably lost some of your ability to relax (in the muscular sense, as well as the emotional sense). Over your lifetime, did you get more flexible, or more stiff? Sudden onset of stiffness or an episode of pain is how you know it’s muscle/movement memory. Joints don’t change that quickly.
Another way tension habits form is through physical injury. It’s not the injury, but the reaction to it, that triggers tension habits. When we get hurt, we guard the injured part by cringing — pulling out of action. Many injuries make such an impression upon us that we continue the cringe for decades, automatically and without awareness. We may not notice low-level cringing, but as tension accumulates, a low-level cringe often becomes a high-level of contraction that at last surfaces as a mysterious episode of pain — the cause having occurred years ago.
Even physical fitness programs can lead to chronic tension. Many kinds of fitness training emphasize strength and firming (tightening) up. Rarely do they teach a person to relax. More often, they teach a person to stretch and “warm up”, which is not the same as teaching relaxation. So many fitness programs (or at least the way some people do them) cause them to form tension habits.
Thus form tension habits that lead to chronic pain, stiffness, inflammation and joint damage. Even without arthritis, accumulated tension adds drag to movement. The combination of drag and pain drains us and makes us feel tired all the time, “old”.
It’s not age; it’s pain and fatigue. Seem familiar?
So, it’s not so much our years as the tension that accumulates over the years that causes the pain and stiffness of aging and the loss of the agility of youth.
BACK TO EASIER MOVEMENT
The pain and stiffness of aging start out as temporary tensions that become learned habits. Those habits can be unlearned, pain dispelled, comfort restored, stiffness softened, mobility improved.
The odd thing is that our tension often seems to be “happening to us” — rather than something we are doing. Much of it exists below our “threshold of consciousness”. We’re “used to it”; we don’t notice it.
“Somatic education exercises” effectively soften the grip of tension — not merely temporarily, but cumulatively, progressively, durably.
The word, “somatic”, refers to your sense of yourself, as you are to yourself. It means “self-sensing, self-activating and self-relaxing” — the way you sense and control chewing.
Somatic education exercises are an entirely different class of exercises from strengthening exercises or stretching exercises (whether athletic stretches or yoga). They have a quality to them akin to yawning. By instilling healthier patterns of muscle/movement memory, they improve posture, flexibility, and coordination. Tension eases and pains disappear. They make movement without pain possible, again.
Healthy aging is more likely if you eliminate the causes of aging you can control. Age management involves more than drugs for blood pressure, crossword puzzles for your brain, cardiovascular exercise for your heart, weed which you can buy weed online in Canada if you live there, or stretches for your muscles; it involves grooming yourself of the accumulated effects of injuries and stress — not merely psychologically, but physically. A healthy diet, a rich social life, and pursuing our interests are important aspects of successful aging. So are somatic education exercises — without which, you now know the probable consequences.
R E S O U R C E S You are invited to take a free preview
of the somatic education exercise program, The Cat Stretch Exercises The Myth of Aging series.
Jaw tension and jaw movement are a very interesting pivotal point in the consideration of balanced movement and stance, but also, of physiological health and emotional well-being.
Our balance depends much upon
where our jaw (mandible) is
in relation to our cranium:
clenched or loosely supported
mandible forward, head back
or mandible back, head down and forward
or tighter more on one side than on the other?
or with our cranium well centered and
moved in a well balanced
by our free and gently elongated neck?
or pulling our head down and forward
as our lower jaw (mandible) pulls back and up
seemingly by itself
with no doing on our part.
LIKE A NUTCRACKER.
and the position of our jaw reflects our physiological state and shape
our arousal state
our emotional state
our readiness for what’s next
or our unreadiness
our “running” old memories
as our best understanding of the present
without also facing the mystery as
this living moment.
The View from Outside
The upper jaw, part of the cranium, connects most intimately with the spine and back (dorsal aspect) of the body.
The lower jaw, the mandible, connects most intimately with the body-core and front (ventral aspect) of the body.
Miscoordination of the jaws, in biting, chewing, and rest position, causes a misfit between the front and back of the body. That misfit causes chronic muscular tensions in the trunk and disturbances to breathing, swallowing, balance, posture and movement. Jaws are a big deal. I say more about that, below.
But for now, I think it’s time we looked something squarely in the face, viz.,
The grimace goes with the gag reflex,
but also with coughing,
revulsion, disgust (pulling back of the tongue),
and suppressed anger (pulling back the mandible in supression of the urge to bite someone),
all involving changes to the face, jaw position, the inside of the mouth, and throat.
And to all that, I say, “Blecch!”
But, there we are. We might as well look at it,
particularly if all that describes us.
So, the first question:
Where does our lower jaw go on such occasions?
Why, up and back.
The teeth clench,
the bones of the face compress and the face gets harder,
the tongue pulls back in and presses against the soft palate.
The head pulls forward and down,
the top of the head tips back
and the neck vertebrae come forward,
closing the throat passage from behind.
It’s a response that says,
“Nothing’s going in
and something may be coming out!”
As I said, “Blecch!”
Back to the jaws.
Clenching the teeth involves the muscles of the sides of the head
pulling the lower jaw (mandible)
up against the teeth of the upper jaw (the maxilla),
so the muscles of clenching pull the sides (and therefore, top) of the head down
and the bottom of the head, up
in a big squeeze.
The face shows it.
More is happening, however.
With the closing of the throat
depression of the front of the chest —
and compression around the base of the head
where the spinal cord enters (foramen magnum)
producing a sensation registered, somatically,
as shrinking inward along our length
and possibly, queasiness.
The change of mouth, throat, and chest shape
impair breathing at two focal locations
and the chest.
Well, this is a jolly state to be in.
The question arises:
“What is a more wholesome resting position of the lower jaw?”
“It is hanging freely, floating beneath the upper teeth
and somewhat forward.”
The exact amount of forward depends upon the inclination of the head
but in the neutral or balanced head position,
my provisional stand is, “the incisors match up”
although it’s an error to think of the jaws having a fixed rest position.
It’s more that they have a floating equilibrium that changes with head movement and position.
When our head is more inclined (forehead up)
the lower jaw hangs back, somewhat
as in the gag reflex
When our head is somewhat bowed (forehead forward)
our lower jaw hangs forward, somewhat.
When our head is balanced between forward and back
our lower jaw hangs freely at some floating suspension point,
our facial bones feel the downward pull of the lower jaw
and they separate, somewhat
and our face softens.
Our chest spontaneously rehapes, sternum higher
and we sit at a new balance.
Some contrast with the gag reflex, eh?
So when we are revolting against life,
when life seems revolting to us
when “our bodies” are in revolt
or we are confronted with a revolting body,
and the emotion of revulsion closes in
the teeth clench, somewhat,
or maybe a lot. (TMJ Dysfunction/bruxism)
Repressed anger involves a pulling back of the mandible (lower jaw)
and clenching of the teeth,
the proverbial “gnashing of teeth”,
combined with a pasted-on smile
really, a grimace
not a true grin,
which is really the action of repressing rage and the urge
to bite someone.
An alternate cause of tightening the jaws in a held position
is pain in the jaws or teeth, whatever the cause,
which triggers the grimace response
of pulling the lower jaw back and up
or clenching the face.
Pain of sufficient intensity or duration
can cause long-term conditioning that outlasts the pain
and causes lingering pain of its own.
The same emotional and functional physiological changes occur from either cause.
It’s not an all-or-none reaction, either, but a matter of degree
according to the pain or emotional state, involved.
A person may experience manifestations of narrowed air passages:
he may snore
or have sleep apnea
or just grind his teeth at night
frightening his spouse
or the neighbors.
Freeing our jaws to hang more freely
enables us to feel and release accumulated grimace or pain-cringe
and enables us to move toward overall more wholesome health.
Our face shows it.
If you want to know how wholesome your own jaw position is,
take a walk,
and as you walk, slowly nod your head in a “yes” movement
and feel how freely your lower jaw changes hanging position.
MUSCLE/MOVEMENT MEMORY: the cause of back muscle spasms and chronic lower back pain
Changing muscle/movement memory doesn’t involve “strength training”, stretching”, “work hardening”, “getting adjustments” or “neutral spine position”. It involves patterned repetition of movements that cultivate control over muscular tension in healthy patterns of movement and posture. Healthy patterns of movement are both comfortable and strong.
Learn how muscle/movement memory underlies most back pain, lifting injuries, disc bulges, spasms, and sciatica and how the cause (muscle/movement memory) can become the cure (new muscle/movement memory).
BENCHMARKS OF SUCCESSFUL RECOVERY of BACK HEALTH — WHAT YOU SHOULD EXPECT FROM SOMATIC EDUCATION
easy movement in all directions
full confidence in your power to lift things
easy ability to look over your shoulder
no further need
to be restricted to neutral spine position
to strengthen back or abdomen
to get adjustments
Thisarticle demystifies chronic back pain and its treatment, explains why improvements from manipulations are so often temporary — and tells you about a better alternative — one you can start right away and for free — and access to more if you want it.
You’ll also see my answer to an AllExperts.com questioner. Somatic education exercises cause rapid improvements in back comfort, security and mobility (within two practice sessions). Back muscle spasms ease and soon end.
You may have tried (or been subjected to) the following: strengthening, stretching, pillows, braces, a special bed, pain relievers, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, yoga, decompression, laser light, most heat, muscle relaxants, massage, high-tech surgery, or other approaches — acupuncture, biofeedback, relaxation techniques, bodywork. Well, some approaches are more effective than others. What determines effectiveness is the “key-in-lock” relation to the cause of the problem.
A Basic Understanding
of Back Pain
Back pain is usually only secondarily a problem of your spine or discs, and primarily a problem of your back muscles — generally of being musclebound.”Musclebound” means too tight, prone to spasm, and resisting lengthening movements.
Musclebound back muscles pull vertebrae too close together, compress discs (making them bulge), trap nerves (causing sciatica), and reflexively involve other muscles that cause shooting pains and restrict breathing.
That’s it, in a nutshell. The rest is details and technical explanations.
How Do Back Muscles Get Musclebound?
In a word: conditioning. Any kind of conditioning involves repetition and formation of habits of one kind or another.
The conditioning that causes back muscles to become musclebound are of three general kinds:
sudden violent injury
stress (emotional or nervous tension — referred to by Dr. John Sarno as “tension myositis syndrome”).
Repetitive movements form muscle/movement memories to hold muscles at a heightened state of readiness to contract (tighten) — which increases muscle tone (nothing but the resting tension level) and creates muscle fatigue (soreness).
Sudden, violent injury triggers protective reflexes to “hold you together” — reflexes that commonly persist indefinitely after the incident/accident (due to muscle/movement memory formation) and that cause many people never to be the same even after therapy.
Stress (nervous tension) means what the words say — and what, in popular parlance, the expression “uptight” means.
Conditioning sets up brain-level learning to hold muscles tight and ready to contract (spasm). Then, a minor situation can trigger spasm, which causes pain, which causes cringing, which tightens muscles further, which causes more pain in an increasing cycle that can amount to a severe episode of immobilizing back pain or which can level off into a chronic pain situation.
Conventional treatment methods consist of strengthening, stretches, spinal adjustments, muscle relaxant drugs, traction (spinal inversion, mechanical disc decompression), laser light, pain medications, and in more extreme cases, surgery. None of these approaches directly addresses muscle/movement memory, but only its effects, muscular contraction and/or the sensation of pain.
When we consider weak muscles as the cause of back pain, there is some truth to the idea — muscles in constant contraction get tired and feel weak. However, the problem of weakness gets solved as soon as muscles resume their resting state. So the problem isn’t weakness; it’s muscle fatigue. Your back isn’t weak; it’s tired from overexertion of its muscles.
When we consider stretching tight muscles as a solution to back pain, there is some validity to that idea — muscles in constant contraction are short, self-shortening. However, the problem of muscle tightness and shortness gets resolved as soon as muscles resume their resting state. So the problem isn’t that muscles need stretching; it’s that they are constantly shortening due to conditioned reflexes of the nervous system.
SPINAL ALIGNMENT ADJUSTMENTS
When we consider spinal alignment as a solution to back pain, there is some validity to that approach — muscles in constant contraction pull on the spine and distort its alignment. However, the problem of spinal alignment isn’t a problem of the vertebrae. Bones go where muscles pull them, the control center for the muscular system is the brain (not the doctor or therapist).
DRUGS — MUSCLE RELAXANTS and PAIN MEDS
When we consider relaxing habitually tight muscles with drugs, we can understand the rationale for the approach. However, drugs do nothing to the patterns of movement and tension controlled by the brain; they only dull the system and the muscular tension patterns remain.
Likewise, pain medications. They dull the pain while the muscular tension patterns remain. Degenerative damage continues unabated.
Most surgery deals with the consequences of either violent injury or congenital defect (necessary) or of long-term muscular tension patterns. Of course, no surgical procedure can change the brain’s programmed muscle/movement memory; you can’t change programming by cutting. Usually, it’s the reverse; muscles get tighter after surgery.
Now you can understand the track record of conventional therapeutic approaches to back spasms.
If these approaches don’t address muscle/movement memory, what does?
Somatic education changes muscle/movement memory by clinical brain-level teaching techniques and somatic education exercises.
Through a learn-by-doing process, somatic education rapidly alters muscle/movement memory and immediately improves physical comfort, muscular control and freedom of movement. It affects the brain the way biofeedback does — new learning — but with two important differences: (1) speed of results and (2) the integrity/durability of the improvement. Improvements are usually solid and need no further professional help. Somatic education tames muscle-spasms and frees musclebound muscles with major improvements from each clinical session and feelable, cumulative improvements with somatic education exercises (if used, alone).
Habits, including muscular tension habits, exist as patterns of memory. Tension habits can be unlearned, and actually, relearning muscular control is what has actually happened when a person has triumphed over back pain, whatever method has been used. The muscle/movement memory patterns that underlie back pain ease up and the patient has recovered control of his or her back muscles sufficiently that they relax (which they do, unless in use).
Problems of muscle tension cannot be “cured” by manipulation because muscle tension is not a mechanical condition that “stays put” when manipulated; it’s an automatic, reflexive action pattern — a habitual muscular behavior — controlled by muscle/movement memory. Lasting relief from muscle tension occurs when muscle/movement memory changes.
Somatic education uses three basic techniques of muscle/movement memory training, but the most important one (by virtue of its speed of effectiveness) uses an action pattern similar to yawning (or a pleasurable morning stretch), but magnified in its potency by certain techniques. We call this “the Whole-body yawn”; the technical name is “The Pandicular Response” (first discovered by researcher A.F. Frazier and first employed clinically by T. Hanna, Ph.D.).
To repeat, the idea behind the “strengthening and stretching” regimen for back spasms is based on a misunderstanding; it’s a misunderstanding because the muscles involved are almost never weak; however, they are almost always very tight and very tired. It’s a misunderstanding because the muscles involved are not “short” (in a fixed sense, like a rope being too short) and therefore, in need of stretching, but “shortening in contraction” (in ongoing activity — when muscles tighten, they always shorten and thicken), in need of relaxation to lengthen.
Sore muscles don’t need strengthening; they need rest and refreshment. They don’t need stretching; they need to relax and lengthen — and that lengthening takes pressure off of joints, nerves, spinal discs, and bursae (“bursitis”).
You need to regain your full range of muscular control, from full strength to full relaxation, something you can’t regain by being manipulated by someone else; you regain it by a form of learning, albeit a specialized one for which you will probably need training.
One of our automatic reactions to injury is to tighten up. That’s part of the pain of every injury and one that can outlast the healing period by years. It’s the “cringe response”, an automatic reaction that protects the us from further injury by pulling away from the source of pain. Sometimes, back muscles tighten in such a protective reaction —
where actual damage, such as a ruptured disc or a violent accident, has occurred. In such situations, surgery may be necessary and somatic education will either not help or will produce only temporary relief, at least until after surgery, unhappy news for some, but realistic. If you’ve seen a doctor for back spasms, he or she has either discovered that you need surgery or that you don’t. Surgery is a last, desperate resort and most doctors are reluctant to recommend it. If you have been sent for therapy or given drugs, yours is not a surgical situation, meaning that your spasms are not happening in reaction to injury, but as a stress-reaction. In most cases of back spasms, there is no injury, only muscle pain, from the “tension” part of “nervous tension.”
So, why do back spasms occur? Now, you have part of the answer — the physical part. However, there’s also, in many cases, a lifestyle part. Let’s look a little more closely to see the underpinnings of Dr. Sarno’s insight.| TO TABLE OF CONTENTS |
The Role of Stress in Back Pain
One thing you will almost always notice about people with back spasms, if you have observed, is their high shoulders and swayback. Touch the muscles of their lower back, and you will find the same thing: hard, contracted muscles, not soft, weak, flabby muscles.The major source of back spasms is the lifestyle of being “on the go” — driven, driving, productive, on time, and responsive to every situation. This is a new idea for most people, so here’s the explanation.
Our post-modern lifestyle triggers an ancient neuromuscular (bodily) response (known to developmental physiologists as the Landau Reaction); this reaction involves a tightening of the muscles of the spine in preparation for arising from rest (sitting or lying down) into activity (sitting, standing, walking, running). The Landau Reaction consists of the muscular responses involved in coming to a heightened state of alertness in preparation for moving into action; triggered incessantly for years, it becomes a tension habit — one that often outlasts the moment (or stage of life) when it was necessary.
(The general viewpoint taught in physical therapy, it should be noted, is that the Landau Reaction is a temporary developmental response seen in infants that does not persist into maturity. However, the muscular action pattern seen in mature adults under stressful conditions is identical to that seen in infants experiencing Landau Reaction — shoulders, back, and hamstrings go into action (get tight).)
How You are Now
fatigued from pain-impaired sleep
self-limiting your activity
energy depleted by pain
on the medical treadmill
paying for medical treatment
spending time in treatment
clouded thought processes
How You Could Be
refreshed by sleep
fully capable of activity
natural vitality available
therapy over – your time is your own
money available for other things
time available for other things
thinking more clearly
feeling easier about life
Many Back Pain Issues Come from the Same Cause
Many medical conditions regarded as separate disease entities — degenerating discs, facet joint irritation, pinched nerves, sciatica, headaches, and insomnia — stem from a single condition: the sensations of contracted back muscles. This is not an oversimplification; its an exact statement of fact: These medical conditions arise from excessive tension, compression, and strain on body tissues — muscle, cartilage, nerve and bone. They cannot be “cured” by manipulation because the body is “doing it to itself” and does not stop doing it to itself until The Landau Reaction is brought to a condition of quietude and free movement is restored.Somatic educators usually find, upon examination of a person’s musculature, that their pain comes not from an injury, but from overworked muscles; is not a medical problem or an injury, but a conditioning problem that often causes diagnosable medical problems. Their clients have back muscles conditioned into a painfully high state of tension. Most of the time, people can be brought to relax back spasms through somatic education of muscle/movement memory, and when they do, the pain and the problem disappear.
Though injuries from traffic accidents, falls, etc., also trigger muscular reactions that can become habitual, the Landau Reaction is behind most of the back-spasm epidemic in our society. It’s a consequence of accumulated stress.
While you can’t avoid the Landau Reaction (it’s a necessary and appropriate part of life), you can avoid getting stuck in it. If your lifestyle puts you habitually in a state of reaction, you have to “de-habituate” yourself from it, so that your rise in tension occurs only as a momentary response to situations and does not become your chronic state.
– 9 Movements to Re-condition Your Back for When Therapy Hasn’t Worked
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If you have pain, numbness or tingling in your extremities, your problem is more severe and requires a medical evaluation to rule out serious disc or nerve conditions. Even if you have surgery, you will still need to learn to relax the tight muscles that initially caused the problem. If yours is not a surgical situation, then somatic education is probably viable for you.The new methods used to de-habituate Landau Reaction are highly reliable and have no adverse side effects, apart from occasional temporary soreness the day after a session, soreness that fades out in a day or two, leaving you more free, comfortable and stronger than before.
The following inquiry came to me via AllExperts.com, reproduced as originally typed(except that I added numbering to the “findings”).Name: TiffineySubject: Severe back pain & Cat scan?
I injured my back in 08 unloading a semi, I had partial laminectomy surgery on L5-S1. This did help the severe pain running down my right leg, I was left with permanet numbness in a small strip going down my right leg and little toe. I continued to have severe pain in my lower back and tingling down both legs. They kept treating me with narcotics and about 7 other medicines and countless injections. I hate narcotics, so I chose to have the stimulator placed. This device truely works for me, it has little issues like the battery flipped and it required surgery to fix, but for the past year I have had a pain free life! A few weeks ago I started coughing and found I had pneumonia, the coughs were deep and after coughing in my kitchen I had a sharp pain, that has not went away, its horrible pain!!! I had a cat scan, cant get MRI due to the stimulator.
Can you please help me understand the results? and is there anything that can be fixed?
Transitional vertebral body at lumbosacral junction.Compatible with lumbarized s1 vertebra on right.
Moderate degenerative change between broad-based transverse process on left at s1 and left superior sacrum.
At L3-L4 a minimal diffuse disc bulge is identified, which flattens the ventral aspect of the thecal sac.
L4-L5, left foraminal discogenic changes, moderate narrowing of the inferior aspect of the left L4 neural foramen without nerve compression at this time. Mild bilateral hypertrophic facet arthropathy and ligamentum flavum hypertrophy are indentified at L4-L5.
At L5-S1 post partial laminectomy on right. There is loss of disc height at L5-S1 compatible with degenerative disc at this level. A vacuum phenomenon is identified at L5-S1. Mild diffuse discogenic changes at L5-S1, appear focally prominent in left foraminal location. moderate bilateral hypertrophic facet arthropathy at L5-S1. There is subsequent bilateral narrowing of the L5 neural foramina, which is moderate on left and mild to moderate on right, without definite evidence of L5 nerve compression in their neural foramina.
Thank you so much!
Well, sounds like you’ve “been through the mill”. (Sigh) There is a way that is so much easier. If you were my client, I expect it would be something like one or two weeks to be mostly or completely out of pain.
I’ll say more at the end, including what you can do to treat your own back pain (which takes somewhat longer).
As to your results, let’s get to them item by item.
Then, I’ll summarize at the end.
Transitional vertebral body at lumbosacral junction. Compatible with lumbarized s1 vertebra on right.
A “transitional” vertebra is one more vertebra than are usually found in a person. For lumbar vertebra, the usual is five (5) — “L1 – L5”. A transitional vertebra in that location is “L6”. I don’t know what this physician means by “compatible with”. Perhaps he means, “comparable to” — S1 — by location. “Lumbarized” means that it has become functionally part of the lumbar spine, and therefore flexible, rather than (as usual) part of the sacrum, and therefore essentially inflexible (the flexibility occurring in most people at the sacro-iliac joints). ** This shouldn’t be a problem. If it is, it has to do with something else than the existence of this vertebrae. We’ll get to that.
Moderate degenerative change between broad-based transverse process on left at s1 and left superior sacrum.
The essential question, here, is, What caused the degenerative change *at that location*? Vertebrae don’t just decide to degenerate, one day, and the location of degeneration is an important and suggestive clue. Yes, what caused it … we’ll get to that. But a clue: compression and movement: friction
At L3-L4 a minimal diffuse disc bulge is identified, which flattens the ventral aspect of the thecal sac.
~ Aha! the tell-tale disc bulge! and minimal! What causes discs to bulge? Well, what causes the tires on your car to bulge at the bottom? Pressure. What causes pressure on the discs in the spinal column? The spinal muscles! In this case, the lower back (lumbar) spinal muscles, by pulling the spine short, by pulling vertebrae closer together. What this item tells us is that you have tight back muscles, enough to cause a bulge but not enough to press on nerves. This sounds suspiciously like tight muscles are the source of the pain. Doesn’t it.
L4-L5, left foraminal discogenic changes, moderate narrowing of the inferior aspect of the left L4 neural foramen without nerve compression at this time. Mild bilateral hypertrophic facet arthropathy and ligamentum flavum hypertrophy are indentified at L4-L5.
He must have meant, “discogenic left foraminal changes” — changes in the openings in vertebrae where nerves come out of the spinal column. But “without nerve compression”. In other words, inconsequential.
HOWEVER, the “hypertrophic facet arthropathy” means that the contact surfaces between neighboring vertebrae, “facet joints” are irritated. Again, the likely culprit: tight back muscles compressing vertebrae. Ordinarily, space exists between facet joints (for flexibility), but when tight back muscles pull vertebrae together, their facet joints rub. Too much rubbing, they get irritated and sore.
I don’t think the ligamentum flavum (the strip of ligament that runs along the front surface of the spine) is hypertrophic. I think it is somewhat shortened and thickened by vertebrae being pulled together.
“I think I see a pattern, here.”
At L5-S1 post partial laminectomy on right. There is loss of disc height at L5-S1 compatible with degenerative disc at this level.
Let me tell you a secret — a secret everyone already knows: When we experience injury or pain, we tighten up around the painful place. We can get pretty tight — so tight our muscles hurt!
Pretty obvious, huh?
Well, you had surgery. You tightened up in what we call, “trauma reflex”. Where did you tighten up? Well, that’s a bit unclear. You have a transitional vertebra, which would be “L6”, and the laminectomy would be at “L6-S1”. But this report says, “L5-S1”. Makes me wonder.
In any case, you tightened up exactly at the place where a “broad-based transverse process on left at s1 [rubs against the] left superior sacrum.”
Hmmm, the same culprit. I think I see a pattern, here.
A vacuum phenomenon is identified at L5-S1. Mild diffuse discogenic changes at L5-S1, appear focally prominent in left foraminal location. moderate bilateral hypertrophic facet arthropathy at L5-S1. There is subsequent bilateral narrowing of the L5 neural foramina, which is moderate on left and mild to moderate on right, without definite evidence of L5 nerve compression in their neural foramina.
The vacuum phenomenon, despite its science-fiction sounding name, is a quaint observation made by radiologists. There is no “vacuum”, but gas in the disc space radiates light when irradiated, as in during the scan. There is no real “vacuum”; it’s a reference to how vacuum tubes emanate light. You know — radiologists’ sense of humor. What’s interesting is why gas would collect in the disc space.
We’ve already covered the rest.
So, I’ve laid it out, but I’ll summarize: Whatever made it necessary for you to have a laminectomy was still at work after the laminectomy. Moreover, whatever the laminectomy, itself, did, it prompted further reflexive contraction of the muscles nearest the laminectomy and for some distance, away from it.You were already very contracted (and close to spasm) in your low back when were unloading the semi; you were even tighter when you had pneumonia and coughing fits.
What happens in a coughing fit? We contract, repeatedly, and may stay contracted. Coughing was enough to send you into spasm.
I suspect that the tingling down your legs comes from very tight muscles in your buttocks compressing your sciatic nerves.
So, how to address all those muscular contractions?
You’ve tried so much. You need something categorically different.
Therefore, I’m sending you to a page that outlines what I think you need.
You’ll notice that it links into a number of other pages. Follow links only after you’ve read all the way through, and start with the first one that interests you.
QUESTION from a reader who asks how to regrow/repair cartilage:
“Hi Lawrence. Do you have any information of how to 1) repair or regrow cartilage in the joints, hips specifically, and 2) how to eliminate bone spurs? I’m having great progress with somatics to improve posture and reduce tension and muscle pain, but I still get a sense of a deeper soreness and also grinding in the joint which feels like it could be from the cartilage wear and spurring that was detected in my joints. Any advice on this? Is it indeed possible? 😉 Thanks!”
To regrow cartilage, you need some cartilage in the joint; the remaining cartilage is the “seed” for regrowth. Then, you need to remove overcompression by freeing the surrounding musculature
If there’s no cartilage left, I don’t know.
Sometimes, muscular soreness near a joint is mistaken as joint pain. In that case, there’s no need to regrow cartilage.
With the pressure removed, cartilage can regrow (slowly). I don’t know the value of chondroitin sulphate for growing cartilage, except that when muscular tension around the joint is high, it’s impossible to regrow cartilage.
As to bone spurs (osteophytes), same thing. Bone spurs grow along the line of pull of chronically tight muscles, at their tendonous attachments.
So, bone spurs and cartilage loss come from the same cause: muscles held tight over a long period. Bone spurs can dissolve, and cartilage can regrow, when the cause is removed.
Please also see, “Completing Your Recovery from an Injury”.
The Diamond Penetration Technique is a way to get more done with less effort and less time, and more brainpower, in clinical sessions of Hanna somatic education(R) or with somatic exercises. The maneuver enhances or potentizes pandiculation (“Whole Body yawn”) technique.
There’s a lot, here, so as you learn this technique for “supersizing” somatic exercises, learn one step at a time before adding the next. “Learn” means “learn”, not “do once and then move one.” Really. Be merciful to yourself and take bite-size pieces, only.
In his original instruction to us, his students of his 1990 Clinical Somatic Education training, Thomas Hanna showed us how to use The Pandicular Response to free people from the grip of The Landau Reaction, which tightens the back/posterior side of the body and, when excessively activated for long periods of time, causes back pain, sciatica, tight shoulders and tension headaches.
In Lesson One (Green Light lesson) for Landau Reaction, he showed us how to coach our client through a Whole-body yawn (pandicular maneuver), beginning with a lifting action of one leg and its opposite shoulder, arm and hand, and head, as in the video, below — to lower them by stages in steps of relaxation, with a mini-in-breath with each mini-lift . . . . . before lowering some more.
First, the video, so you know for sure the maneuver to which I refer.
somatic exercise | leg lift to activate back muscles
I have found that “staged” or “stepped” relaxation can be made more powerful by a technique that I have named, “The Diamond Penetration” maneuver. The reason I have named it The Diamond Penetration maneuver will become clear to you once you start doing it. For now, I say that it makes use of The Power of Recognition, as I have described it in the linked article, “Attention is a Catalyst“, to amplify the effectiveness of pandiculation, or any other therapeutic or educational technique, for that matter. Assisted Pandiculation is accelerated learning, and learning involves recognition and development, based upon memory. Memory, learning, recognition, function and development are five development stages of a single function. There’s one more.
Memory — the ground function, memory — persistence of pattern, memory Learning — modification of the ground function into a durable pattern of memory Recognition — the closely approximate match of some memory with an experience happening now Function — initiation of action, memory activated and applied to this moment
Integration — facility to move freely and functionally among different remembered patterns Evolution — expansion of attention beyond both memory and the moment — the space of emergence of newness, for patterns newly emerging into the moment, to be remembered into existence.
Take the starting initials of each, and you get MLRFIE! Well, that’s as far as we’ll go with that one, folks — at least for now. We’ll come back to that strange, unpronounceable acronym, later.
In his demonstrations to us, Thomas Hanna had the person on the table lower the leg part way, then lift a bit, then lower some more, repeating by stages, to complete rest. He even commented that that same maneuver was what Joe Montana did, spontaneously, after his back surgery and commented ruefully about to what the rapid improvement was attributed — namely, surgery and physical therapy!
Here’s the “inside” of that maneuver: The lifting action produces a sensation. By re-lifting after lowering part way, the client re-locates the sensation of lifting (contracting the muscles of lifting the leg). To re-locate the sensation activates the power of recognition, which is central to all learning. (No recognition — no learning.)
That’s the central principle of The Diamond Penetration Technique.
Here are the advantages of using The Diamond Penetration Technique. It:
rapidly penetrates Sensory-Motor Amnesia
rapidly awakens sensory awareness and motor control that has never been awake, before (penetrates Sensory-Motor Obliviousness)
speeds integration of multiple “movement elements” into a single coordinated action
increases the result of a single pandiculation — relaxation and control
decreases the number of repetitions needed for pandiculation to get the desired result
shortens the time needed to get a good result from a somatic exercise lesson
Obviously, these benefits are interrelated and just a tiny bit useful when working to transform yourself.
I have elaborated that principle into a very powerful technique that merits the name, “Diamond Penetration”. Very powerful. Clinical practitioners can apply this technique to assisted pandiculation maneuvers; clients can apply it to somatic exercises, and to free-form pandiculations you may do when working out pains or restrictions for which no somatic exercise currently exists.
I have developed several increasingly powerful variations of The Diamond Penetration Technique, which I outline, here.
“The Quick Return”
“The Quick Return and Sustained Hold”
“The Two-Movement-Element Combination”
“Twos and Threes”
“The Diamond Pattern”
“The Multi-Movement-Element Combination Sequence”
As you can see, these variations increase in complexity. The way to learn them is to do and learn them one-at-a-time, not to try to understand them by reading or to memorize them all before doing them.
Now the instruction. I’m going to spread things out in detail, so stay with me.
The Quick Return
Repetition is basic to recognition.
In The Quick Return, we contract into movement and feel the sensation of the end-point of movement (“where we end up in the movement”), then relax part-way for an instant, then re-contract and re-locate the exact same sensation.
Contract and feel what’s tight.
Re-contract to feel the exact same thing.
That’s a Quick Return. It activates The Power of Recognition (familiarity). We might call each repetition “a pulse of sensation.”
An example from Lesson One could be,
“Lie on your belly, head turned, with your thumb in front of your nose, your hand flat on the surface. Lift your elbow to the limit. Feel what that feels like in your neck and shoulder.
Now lower it a bit, and immediately lift again. Find the exact same sensation at the same place. That’s called, ‘a Quick Return’. Remember that for use, as we go along.”
“Mini Quick Returns”
During the relaxation phase of pandiculation, you can do “mini” Quick Returns on the way to complete relaxation.
It takes two incidents or occasions to activate memory; prior to that, it’s just sensory awareness or cognition — no recognition. In fact, without recognition, something happening is identical to nothing happening; we don’t know what it is, other than that it’s “something but we don’t really know what”, which makes the experience somewhat evanescent.
Now, the thing that makes one occurrence different from two occurrences of the same thing is the contrast between “happening” and “not happening”. “Not happening” has to separate the two occurrences. That’s the principle, “Somas perceive by contrast,” or “Somas can perceive only changes.” In somatic education practice, the common contrast is between activity and rest — which is why I instruct clients, “Come to complete rest between repetitions.” Without “not happening”, there’s only one long incident.
The Quick Return and Sustained Hold
We know that for a sensation to emerge, and for attention to steady on a sensation, takes time. Quick things escape our noticing.
So, after the Quick Return, we sustain the action (“sustained hold”) to let it “fade into view”. Attention steadies in and on the sensation. The sensation becomes more vivid.
To apply a sustained hold, you do a series of Quick Returns (however many) then hold the final Quick Return; during that holding time, remember the pattern and timing of the Quick Returns that got you there, i.e., brought you into this holding pattern. Then, you slowly relax, taking time at least equal in length to the memory . . . . . or longer . . . . to complete relaxation.
first sense and do the movement, and hold, then
remember the movement while holding its pattern, then
back out (ease out) of the movement slowly and deliberately to complete rest.
You come to know the beginning of the movement, its middle, and its end — initiating it, sustaining it, and letting it go.
How useful do you think that might be for learning to occur?
The instruction would be:
“Do a Quick Return and hold. Now, slowly relax.”
Experience takes time.
Sustain the hold for the total amount of time it took to do all the Quick Returns. For two Quick Returns (three movements into position), sustain the hold for a “count” of three — equal to the time it took to contract and then do two Quick Returns — then relax during a count of three. (That doesn’t mean, “Relax and then count to three.” It means, “Take a count of three to go from contracted to relaxed.”)
Comparing Memory to Action
Integrating the flesh-body and the subtle-body (mind).
Having done a Quick Return and Hold, you now remember the sensation of movement and then do the movement, again, to compare it to the memory. Are they the same?
You might then repeat the movement and compare to memory until the movement and the memory closely match.
Memory is the root of action.
The Two-Movement-Element Combination
Coordination develops when we combine two actions (“movement elements”) into one.
In the Green Light lesson, we lift the elbow-hand-head-shoulder with the opposite-side leg, as in the video. Those are the two movement elements.
Using the Quick Return, the instruction could be:
“With your hand flat on the surface, lift your elbow to the limit. Now do a Quick Return (relaxes and re-contracts) and hold.
Now, lift your straight leg. Now lower it a bit, and do a Quick Return.
Now, do a Quick Return of both, together.” (combination Quick Return)
When doing the Quick Return of both, together, the movements should be synchronized to start and end together. That develops coordination (integration).
I have discovered another kind of “three” that rapidly integrates two movement elements. It goes beyond The Equalization Technique.
It goes like this.
Do a Quick Return of the first movement element and hold.
Do a Quick Return of the second movement element and hold.
Both movement elements are now active. Now, integrate them with each other in a three-part maneuver:
Pulse the first movement element to firm up the second movement element.
You’ll feel it. If you don’t feel it, you’ve partially lost the second movement element. Bring it back and pulse the first movement element, again, until you feel it make the second movement element stronger.
Pulse the second movement element to firm up the first movement element.
Pulse the first movement element to firm up the second movement element.
You’ve now forged a better connection between the two movement elements. That’s the other kind of “three” maneuver, an integration maneuver.
You can use this “three” maneuver with any two synergistic movements of any somatic exercise (“synergistic” means that the two movements help each other).
Twos and Threes
Now, we get a bit more sophisticated.
Once you or a client have done a combination Quick Return, you’re in a position to do two Quick Returns. That makes for, not two quick experiences of the same thing, but three.
If that’s confusing, lie on your belly with your thumb by your nose and do two Quick Returns. You’ll see it creates the same sensation three times. Just do it.
Here’s the thing: If, with a single movement, you alternate between one Quick Return (to complete relaxation) and two Quick Returns, you alternate creating two experiences of a sensation with creating three experiences. That’s a contrast, in itself.
When done as a combination Quick Return, it’s a very powerful way of creating learning that I have found causes a series of internal shifts of sensory-motor organization.
The instruction could be:
Lift your elbow. Now do a Quick Return and hold.
Lift your leg. Now do a Quick Return and hold.
(two movements at the same time)
Now, do two combination Quick Returns (a “three”). Relax completely.
Now, do one combination Quick Return (a “two”). Relax completely.
Alternate doing two and doing one. Continue until you get better coordinated.
Changes of patterns awaken the Power of Recognition and trigger learning.
The Diamond Pattern
Here’s a “diamond” pattern (number of repetitions:
1 2 3 4 3 2 1
. . .
. . . .
. . .
The instruction could be:
Do (some action, such as lifting the elbow) and hold. Now, relax completely.
Do one Quick Return (2 experiences of a sensation) and hold. Now, relax completely.
Now, do two Quick Returns (3 experiences of a sensation) and hold. Now, relax completely.
Now, do three Quick Returns (4 experiences of a sensation) and hold. Now, relax completely.
Now, do two Quick Returns (3 experiences of a sensation) and hold. Now, relax completely.
Now, do one Quick Return (2 experiences of the sensation) and hold. Now, relax completely.
Now, do the action without a Quick Return (1 experience of the sensation). Hold before relaxing to complete rest.
The experience “backs a person out of contraction” and gets them able to feel more and more with less and less stimulation.
To see the value, try it with any movement or combination.
Bucky Fuller pointed out that four incidents or occasions of an event were the minimum needed to recognize a stable pattern.
It goes like this:
one incident or occasion:
internal experience: “Something has happened.”|
(capture of attention)
two incidents or occasions of the same thing:
internal experience: “This seems familiar.”
three incidents or occasions of the same thing:
internal experience: “There seems to be consistency.”
(building upon recognition – “There is something to learn, here”)
four or more incidents or occasions of the same thing:
internal experience: “There’s a consistent pattern, here.”
(development of knowledge)
Test this out in yourself by using your imagination.
The Diamond Penetration Technique can be applied to single movements, to simpler somatic exercise lessons (e.g., those of “The Cat Stretch” or “The New Seated Refreshment Exercises”), to more complex somatic exercises that involve as many as seven movement elements in combination (e.g., “Free Yourself from Back Pain” or “The Five-Pointed Star”), or to inherent action patterns such as those of walking (“SuperWalking”), twisting, or wriggling.
This technique lends itself to The Equalization Technique, discussed in The Evolution of Clinical Somatic Education Techniques. In a combination Quick Return, match (by feel) the effort of one movement to the effort of the others; equalize them. Read the article.
The Multi-Movement-Element Combination Sequence
In general, it goes like this:
Do a Quick Return of the first movement element, and hold.
Do a Quick Return of the second movement element, and hold.
Do two combination Quick Returns of the two movement elements, and hold.
Do a Quick Return of the third movement element.
Do two combination Quick Returns of the three movement elements (with Equalization Technique).
Do a Quick Return of the fourth movement element (if there is one).
Do two combination Quick Returns of the four movement elements (with Equalization Technique).
Keep adding movement elements that fit together (synergistically) until they are all assembled into one Grand Coordinated Movement.
You can do Mini-Quick-Returns with the entire movement pattern, through the relaxation phase to complete rest.
Matching Memory (Subtle Body) to Sensation (Dense Physical Body)
Having done any of the variations, above, you can end a sequence by alternating a single quick return with a moment of rest (or a moment of holding the contraction), during which you remember (or imagine) and compare what you just felt with what you remembered.
You alternate a single quick return with remembering/imagining until your memory matches the experience very closely.
Then, you do a final contraction, hold and remember, then relax very, very slowly.
When the memory matches the experience, you have integrated your subtle and dense physical bodies. Relaxing at that point enables you to come out of contraction much more completely than otherwise.
We perceive by means of contrast; we correct things by making a comparison. We gain control by means of memory.
The essence of this technique involves repetitive pulsing of movements, activation of memory, matching the sensation you remember with the sensation you experience as you do the movements, and slow, controlled release of muscular efforts.
Each pulse of movement creates a sensation that you locate as your “target” for Quick Return.
In each repetition of a pulse, you locate the identical sensation in the identical location.
In combination Quick Returns, you locate the identical feeling of the whole movement each time you do the combination movement.
Each pattern of repetitions (2’s, 3’s, “diamond pattern”) magnifies the Power of Recognition.
Now you know what MRLFIE stands for!
I know there’s a lot. That’s why you start simply, at the beginning. Internalize (learn) each level of complexity until you have it all under your belt.
If you’re a practitioner, teach your clients to their capacity, but not beyond. If they lost the pattern, have them go back and coach them until they’ve mastered what you’ve covered, before going further.
In investigating the conditions that can beset the sacro-iliac (henceforth, S-I) joints, I have arrived at a number of findings that make sense of the condition and point precisely to what we can do to relieve S-I joint pain and attendant symptoms.
We will consider both one-sided and bi-lateral S-I joint pain.
SYMPTOMS OF S-I JOINT PAIN SYNDROME
pain across the low back (both sides)
pain just below the waistline (one side)
pain deep in buttock(s)
deep pelvic/abdominal pain (ache, “lightning”-like pain), sometimes with nausea
numbness in front or side of thigh
pain like a wire going down the spine into the pelvis
a gripping sensation at the lower abdomen
sciatica (if accompanied by other symptoms)
testicular pain or burning bladder sensation
DIAGNOSES INDICATING THE THE S-I JOINTS SHOULD BE CHECKED FOR POSITION:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
THE BASIC UNDERSTANDING
In brief, S-I joint pain arises from excessive muscular compression (tension) and twisting forces on the S-I joints originating both from below (legs) and from above (longitudinal muscles of the trunk) during walking. Those compression and twisting forces converge at the S-I joints, drawing the pelvic bones into a distorted stress pattern that places strain on S-I ligaments, causes pain, and triggers reflexive muscular contractions throughout the trunk and legs that themselves cause pain, as well as referred nerve pain and radiating pain (e.g., S-I joint-to-groin or to the inside surface of a hip bone/ilium). This complex array of symptoms, we may call, S-I Joint Syndrome.
The S-I ligaments are not the cause, but the victim of those forces and the pain usually locates, not at the jammed S-I joint, but at the other-side S-I joint.
To relieve S-I joint pain, we
Cultivate/restore healthy, free, balanced patterns of movement and rest in the musculature.
Return the resting tension levels of the involved muscles, which are habituated into a contracted, shortened state, back to complete rest/relaxation and complete resting length.
simultaneously. I will discuss how we do that, later.
Bi-lateral S-I joint pain simpler than one-sided SI joint pain. Bilateral S-I joint pain involves the compression and twisting forces named above (but not yet described). One-sided S-I joint pain combines compression and twisting forces with asymmetrical muscular pulls (pelvic rotation with elevation with one hip), caused by Trauma Reflex.
Everyone has experienced Trauma Reflex. Caused by pain, it’s a protective withdrawal response of the painful part away from the direction or cause of pain. Its other name is “cringing”.
Trauma Reflex (the cringing response triggered by injury) is almost always asymmetrical because any given injury generally occurs to one side.
Trauma Reflex is not a momentary muscular action like the stretch (myotatic) reflex, but one that lasts at least as long as the pain of injury persists — and commonly much longer — up to decades. When it lasts for decades, it’s that the injury has left such an impression on the brain that it displaces the healthy, familiar body image so that it’s as if the injury is always “happening right now” — along with the reflexive pulling away (muscular tightening). This change constitutes a change of muscle/movement memory.
Asymmetrical muscle pulls (and asymmmetrical posture) place more stress on one S-I joint than the other.
Though one might be tempted to regard S-I joint pain as a ligamentous problem, it is not; it is a neuromuscular problem that produces ligamentous strain as a by-product. I am emphatic about this point and will explain, shortly.
THE STRUCTURE, FUNCTION, AND LOCATION OF THE S-I JOINTS
The sacrum is the meeting point of tensional and compressional forces meeting from above and below, as noted earlier. The sacro-iliac (or ilio-sacral) joints are the less mobile of the joints involving the sacrum (meeting of sacrum and ilia or “wings” of the pelvis); the other joint is the lumbo-sacral junction (meeting of sacrum and lowest lumbar vertebra, “L5”).
In the healthy state, most of the sacral movement occurs at L5/S1; some movement occurs at the S-I joints. Said another way, because it is more tightly bound to the ilia than to L5, the sacrum is functionally “more part of the pelvis than it is part of the spinal column”.
See how the muscles above the S-I Joints can compress them.
In the unhealthy state, the sacrum becomes (functionally) “somewhat more part of the spinal column and somewhat less part of the pelvis” and compression and twisting forces at the S-I joints strain the ligamentous connection.
Compression forces at L5/S1 come from muscles of the trunk in contraction, primarily the paraspinal and psoas muscles, and the quadratus lumborum. Additional compression forces from the trunk come from the muscles of the abdominal wall (obliques, rectus abdominus), involved in the asymmetrical pulls of Trauma Reflex.
Pulling forces at the S-I joints, themselves, come from muscles that run the span between the legs and the pelvis — the psoas muscles, the hamstrings, hip joint flexors, buttocks, and femorii rectus (you like the Latin?) — and combine with the movements of walking and the weight-forces of sitting to affect the S-I joints.
It is here that we pause to re-set our way of looking at what I am describing. To this point, I have described the situation in anatomical terms — but anatomical terms are inadequate to understand what is going on with S-I joints; what is needed are functional terms — terms that describe sensations and movement: somatic responses. The cringe response (Trauma Reflex) is an example of a somatic response.
In the remainder of this piece, I will use both anatomical and somatic perspectives — anatomical terms so you can visually imagine what I am describing and somatic descriptions so you can imagine in yourself what that might feel like (assuming you have developed enough proprioceptive awareness to do that).
THE LIVING EXPERIENCE OF S-I JOINT PAIN
S-I Joint Dysfunction often starts with an injury, sometimes, an injury substantially in the past. The injury generally involves a hard blow that sends shock waves into the pelvis from a specific direction, shock waves sufficne to displace the sacrum from its centered position to an off-center (twisted) position. The brain senses the displacement and contracts the musculature within, above, and below the pelvis to prevent further displayment — muscular contraction sufficient to cause pain and postural distortions beyond those of the original injury and that may last indefinitely. Diagnosis: S-I Joint Syndrome.
When the hamstrings tighten in Landau Reaction, they pull the legs back (into extension). Any movements of the legs forward, as in walking, then require additional muscular force from the hip joint flexors, psoas and femoris rectus muscles. Habituated Landau Reaction thus leads (by compensation) to tight hip joint flexors. This pattern of co-contraction makes the legs functionally “more part of the pelvis” — binds and jams the legs into the pelvis, making them less independently free to move. The legs feel heavy and walking slows, dragging the ilia along with them in opposite, twisting directions.
The hamstrings are reflexively connected with the low back muscles. When they tighten, the low back muscles tighten.
When we tighten in Startle Reflex, the reflexive movement is into collapse and curling up. People rarely curl up completely, but the musculature tightens in that pattern and posture changes accordingly into a partial crouch.
That crouch pattern involves the abdominal muscles and the hip joint flexors, including the psoas muscles. The movement is into retraction (pulling in) of the legs in preparation for collapse and curling up. The hamstrings and hip joint flexors actually tighten in readiness to pull the legs in and collapse and curl up.
Now, how does that affect the S-I joints?
As the legs move in opposite directions when walking, walking induces a moving twisting motion into the pelvis right at — you guessed it — the S-I joints. When legs are jammed into the pelvis, this way, each step of walking forces the ilia (location of the hip joint/acetabulum) to move with the legs somewhat more than in the healthy state. (In the healthy state, the ilia move in a complex, round motion with each step, but rather less than when the leg-pelvis muscles are tight — and within the tolerance of the S-I joints.)
Now, what happens to the ligaments of the S-I joints with this kind of excessive motion? They get strained.
And what happens to tissue that is chronically under strain? It gets inflamed. Inflammation is nature’s way of forcing fluids and nutrients into tissue that is strained (or injured) so it can heal.
THE VIEW FROM ABOVE
But wait! There’s more!
We just described the effect of “tension from below” (the legs). What about “tension from above” (the trunk)?
When tight trunk muscles bind the sacrum more tightly to the lumbar spine, the ordinary, round pelvic movements of walking are no longer as free of the lumbar spine. The lumbo-sacral junction is “stiffer”; the round movements of walking must be re-distributed: less at the lumbo-sacral junction (L5/S1) and more at the S-I joints.
So, the S-I joints get strained by movements both from below and from above. They get it from both ends.
How’d you like to be in the middle, mediating between two uptight parties intent upon taking action that affects YOU??
Now, the psoas muscles have a special part to play, here. They cross the span between “below” and “above”, connecting “below” with “above” (from the lesser trochanters of the legs, through the abdominal cavity, to the spinal column as high as the tendons (crura) of the diaphragm). When they’re tight, they “seal the deal” — jamming both what’s below and what’s above into the sacrum.
So, with each step of walking, the S-I joints take the brunt of movement.
That’s sufficient to account for bi-lateral S-I joint pain.
But wait! There’s more!
ONE-SIDED S-I JOINT PAIN
Back to Trauma Reflex.
It’s true that injuries usually occur to one side, isn’t it?
What happens with any injury, as we’ve noted, is Trauma Reflex — a tightening centered at the injured region and including all of the tensions involved in changing our movements to protect the injury.
An injury to one side triggers asymmetrical tightening that commonly shows up as a side-tilt (“C-curve” scoliosis) and a rotation (postural twist) — typically with one hip up and the same-side shoulder down and back. With the side tilt and twist, weight distribution goes off-center and the musculature must compensate (for balance — the essential meaning of the term “compensations”).
In the trunk, the muscles above induce compression forces more into one S-I joint than the other. Below, the hip joint muscles contract asymmetrically, left-to-right and in different ways on the two sides. (In the healthy state, those muscles do not contract in a “unitary”, all-or-nothing manner, but selectively, according to the position-in-movement of the legs.) In the unhealthy state, they stay contracted at all times in the asymmetrical pattern of injury-and-compensation, even in movement, and introduce drag, compression and strain into the situation.
These changes all constitute changes of muscle/movement memory.
And guess what that does to the sacrum.
If you can’t guess, I’ll tell you: it induces a twist — and rather forcefully and for a long time.
S-I joint strain?
CLARIFYING COMMON DESCRIPTIVE LANGUAGE
Now, I want to take a moment to address the term used to describe deviations of the sacrum from its healthy, centered equilibrium: “up-slip”.
There ain’t no “slip” to the up-slip. The sacrum doesn’t exist in an empty space like a laboratory skeleton and just kind of “slip” up — and the S-I joint isn’t slippery. The sacrum exists in a tensional/compressional equilibrium, and rather securely so, the meeting place of forces that change moment to moment and that affect its position. It doesn’t “slip”; it is rather forcefully pulled, compressed and twisted — and for a long time – it is drawn and “floats” into an altered position over time, in the midst of those tensional and compressional forces. It’s partially dislocated. Just some perspective. Rather than an “up-slip”, it’s more an “up-clunk”.
OK. Now we have not only a compressed S-I joint (from above and below) but also a torqued/twisted sacrum felt as pain below the waistline — maybe more on one side, maybe all the way across. Can you feel it?
What do we do, now?
Well, for one thing, we see that ongoing forces are inducing S-I joint strain and that those forces are coming from habituated neuromuscular reflexes — meaning coming from and governed by the nervous system.
We also see that the strain on ligaments is not the fault of the ligaments, but of the nervous system.
That means that we can’t correct the problem in any lasting way by addressing the ligaments (and to stretch or loosen the ligaments may reduce their strain, but it also de-stabilizes the joints they hold secure). It also means that we can’t massage away the problem (have you noticed?). It means that we have to free the person from the grip of Landau Reaction, Startle Reflex, and Trauma Reflex (the brain reaction to the shock of injury and to distorted pelvic stresses) and establish free, balanced, and well-coordinated movement that gives back to the sacrum, S-I joints, and lumbo-sacral junction (L5/S1) their healthy, centered, free movement at balance.
Have I said it?
But here’s the question: how??
THE PANDICULAR RESPONSE — THE “WHOLE-BODY YAWN”
There exists a neuromuscular response, an action pattern, ideally suited for retraining postural reflexes and movement — the pandicular response. Applied methodically to contraction patterns via controlled and regulated movement patterns, the pandicular response frees a person from involuntary muscular tensions, such as those that cause S-I joint pain.
The pandicular response works more in the spirit of a yawn than in the spirit of stretching. Like the Trauma Reflex, everyone has experienced the pandicular response. It’s the “morning stretch” – not the athletic stretch, by the way – but the sensuous strong contraction of muscles followed by an easy release. This action sends a cascade of sensory-nerves signals to the cerebral cortex of the brain (sensory and sensory-association areas) sufficient to forge or reforge the link of the sensory and motor areas of the brain – to awaken or improve voluntary control of muscles and movement – to shift control of muscles and movement from involuntary, habit-driven levels of the brain to the voluntary level. Muscles come free of contraction and so relax and lengthen.
The pandicular response is the action of awakening and refreshment of movement the way the Trauma Reflex is the action of withdrawing and protecting from pain or injury. It’s an action found among all creatures with a spinal column, including birds, horses, dogs and cats. It’s genetically inherent.
Everyone has experienced the pandicular response. What’s needed is to do it in movement patterns that involve the muscles of the trunk and legs that cause S-I joint syndrome.
For example, the action of the back muscles is to induce lumbar curve. To engage the pandicular response with these muscles, one may lie prone (belly down) and lift one leg (straight knee), then slowly lower it. The action engages the spinal extensors, gluteus maximus and hamstrings. Gravity creates the feeling of weight that causes a cascade of sensory-nerve impulses to the sensory neural network of the brain and allows us to feel the movement of lifting more vividly. The slow lowering takes allows more time, and therefore, more learning of the action of relaxation and lengthening of those muscles. Lasting changes occur rather quickly, rather than slowly.
In practice, we use a more fully elaborated set of action patterns (muscular control reconditioning exercises) that engages more of the movement system at a higher level of integration (for faster, more complete changes). For S-I joint pain, we use an array of movements that addresses all of the muscles and movements involved in S-I joint syndrome.
You may view an overview of those exercises, here.
Those movements instill healthy patterns of movement that cause the bones of the pelvis to float into a new, healthier position and that allow the S-I joints to heal.
Because of tissue changes and inflammation, healing from S-I joint pain, once the neuromuscular changes have been made, may take weeks or months. Aided and supported by somatic education exercises, they do occur. As slowly as they occur, they occur far faster and more easily than by therapeutic methods that involve strengthening, stretching, manipulation, or surgery.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So wrote Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanac.
Failing that, another saying carries the point: “The biggest problem could have been solved when it was small.” So wrote Lao Tzu, a Chinese Taoist sage, in The Tao Teh Ching, an ancient text of wisdom.
Changing behaviors and entrenched conditions isn’t as simple as it sounds — a mere decision powered (at best) by enthusiasm — as anyone who has worked to change a habit has found.
People do it by “trying” — working harder to change — rather than by uncovering their/our own remaining impulse to be “the old way” — working smarter.
However, without taking into account the root of action, any change of action remains incomplete and in conflict with old ways of acting. This understanding applies as much to social politics as it does to individual behavior and experience. That’s why, “You can’t change minds with guns.”
There’s a way of “working smarter”, rather than harder — and that is part of what I cover in this entry.
There’s a “Root” of Action??
The idea that there is a root of action doesn’t occur to most people. That’s because people generally experience action — theirs and others — only once it is well underway. The root of action, because it is small, subtle, goes unnoticed.
So, I will, in this entry, illuminate the nature of the root of action (and it isn’t psychological, but more primordial/rudimentary than that).
In the process, I will show the relationship between the subjective experience of the root of change and the objective (and outwardly observable) bodily sign of the root of action.
Let’s get started.
The Root of Action
The root of action is so common as to go unnoticed, except in certain specialized situations. Its word is, “readiness”.
Readiness is not merely an emotional state, a state of anticipation. (“Yeah, boss! Yeah, boss!”) It’s a state of preparation, the first step of shifting from rest (unreadiness) into action. (“On your mark, get set . . . “) It’s a “steering” action, the step of organizing oneself for a particular activity, generally based upon the memory of the action we are about to do, but also modulated by the relationships of the moment. It’s that subtle.
Because it is that subtle, as subtle as memory and the subtle effects of one person or place upon another, it generally goes unnoticed.
Memory and imagination go together, are two sides of the same coin.
The act of getting ready is preparation for a leap into a (however vaguely imagined) future which has some connection with a memory.
I call the moment of getting ready, “The Controlling Moment.” As we leap (or subtly, imperceptibly drift) into action, we rally our determination, springing (or gliding) forward from that controlling moment into full action.
As we launch into action, we power up. The controlling moment points our direction. Powering up builds upon the controlling moment, and away we go.
Now, here’s the odd thing about human beings: it’s common for us automatically to redirect our launch, so that what we do after the Controlling Moment misses the mark we (think we have) set in our Controlling Moment.
The act of redirecting ourselves occurs automatically, involuntarily, and is based upon memories of life situations similar to the one into which we are launching. Fears, conditioning, beliefs all change our trajectory, but “behind the scenes”, without conscious awareness. That means we get unanticipated results.
Not only do they change our trajectory; they also disguise or obscure the Controlling Moment of that action, so that an observer of our action often can’t tell what our precise intention was at the controlling moment — and we, ourselves, find it difficult to tell why things went awry. (“The road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” a pathetic saying based on the presently-described dynamic) What we and others perceive is everything that followed the Controlling Moment of that action, but the Controlling Moment remains obscured and obscure.
Why? Because the experience of “powering up” is so much “louder” than that of The Controlling Moment. The root remains buried.
That’s why it’s so difficult to self-correct, to change habits, and to understand the motivations of others whose actions we observe.
Two “Layers” of Action
We may regard The Controlling Moment as the core of an action (steering) and Powering Up as the extension of that core (acceleration).
Another odd thing, however: the two layers don’t always go together. Sometimes, we get ready for an action but refrain from carrying it out; sometimes, we do an action for which we are not really ready, and our heart really isn’t in it, but carry it out, anyway. We counteract our own Controlling Moment or we act without the precise internal guidance of a mature Controlling Moment.
In those cases, we have a condition of self-arrest (Controlling Moment without Powering Up — ineffectuality) or poorly organized action (undeveloped Controlling Moment and lots of Powering Up — stupidity or clumsiness).
In such cases, a residue of the action (or lack of action) remains in memory. The residue of self-arrest is regret, frustration and/or self-recrimination; the residue of poorly organized action remains in memory as a sense of guilt, shame, and/or lower self-esteem.
What’s lacking when we have one but not the other is integrity.
Integrity is intelligent, well-regulated, well-modulated power.
In other words, when we have one but not the other, we fail either to exercise our intelligence adequately or we fail to exercise our power appropriately.
What happens as aftermath when we act without intelligence or without well-regulated power is we experience our lack of integrity as disempowerment.
What to do? What to do?
Congruence between our Controlling Moment and our Powering Up shows up as integrity. To forge integrity, we must correct one or both of our errors — the error of acting without adequate intelligence or an error of the exercise of power .
However, it’s not sufficient merely to power up; we must power up to a degree of intensity appropriate to our circumstances. Likewise, it’s not sufficient merely to power up to an appropriate degree of intensity; we must power up intelligently, which means in alignment with the intention present in our Controlling Moment. The Controlling Moment is the truth of any action.
The kicker is that we can’t have intelligence about a Controlling Moment buried by an unintelligent powering up — and powering up always buries the Controlling Moment simply because it’s louder.
So, we have to uncover the Controlling Moment underlying any action or habit we find problematic.
How do we do that?
The First Moment of Attention
Self-correction requires that we catch the fault when it is small. Otherwise, we have to deal with both the momentum of an action in progress and the direction of that momentum. Think of turning a vehicle at slow speed vs. at high speed.
Again, unfortunately, we may (and commonly do) miss the Controlling Moment.
One way to catch the Controlling Moment is to slow down so that we can observe the first moment of action, the Controlling Moment.
Another way to catch the Controlling Moment is to repeat the action with close attention each time, so that we ultimately catch the Controlling Moment.
And yet another way to catch the Controlling Moment is to alternate doing an action with refraining from that action, so that, by virtue of the contrast between doing and not-doing, we get enhanced perception of the action.
And yet another way to catch the Controlling Moment is to take instruction (and example) from someone adept at the intended action, so that, by virtue of the contrast between their competence and our incompetence, we catch our own errant Controlling Moment and correct it, with repetition, by degrees (successively accurate approximations).
But, whatever the approach, we must catch the Controlling Moment, so that we perceive the contrast (or difference) between our Controlling Moment and the subsequent Powering Up (which may be out of close alignment with our Controlling Moment) — so that we can self-correct at the root of action.
A master of anything is one who has done so.
I’ve just outlined the theoretical (not hypothetical) underpinning of action and of change of action, and also of somatic education as a way to upgrade our way of operating in life. I’m going to leave you with that basic understanding without outlining specific techniques of somatic education so that you can form the intention and your own Controlling Moment to improve your access and control of your own controlling moments. It’s known as “sharpening the tool”.
What follows is an addendum of interest to practitioners of somatic education and Rolfers. To continue this consideration, please see this entry on The Big Pandiculation.
For Practitioners of Somatic Education
Feldenkrais pointed out, in “Body and Mature Behavior”, that laboratory studies showed that we can sense a stimulus about 1/20th of the intensity of another, immediately preceding stimulus. That means, when a stronger stimulus immediately precedes another, weaker, stimulus as little 1/20th as intense, we can sense both, but if the weaker stimulus is less than 1/20th as intense, we may not be able to sense it.
Thomas Hanna, developer | Hanna somatic education
Thomas Hanna, developer of Hanna somatic education, pointed out that to effectively alter a pattern of function, we must recover awareness and control of that pattern of function by deliberately cause it at a level of intensity at least equal to that of the same pattern, when caused by involuntary habit. By matching or exceeding the level of voluntary intensity to the intensity of the involuntary habit, control shifts from involuntary habit to voluntary performance. At that point, change is possible.
However, to make a change, we must reach, or catch, the Controlling Moment, and that requires two things: that we:
closely match the voluntary pattern of action to the habitual/involuntary pattern.
maintain continuous sensory awareness from full intensity if the action all the way to zero intensity.
In practice, 1. requires that we compare (by feeling) our voluntary action to the habitual action and self-correct until they closely match.
In practice, 2. requires that we either go slowly enough that neighboring (or successive) “takes” of sensory perception are less than 20:1 (“takes” of sensory perception can’t be continuous due to the way our nervous systems function, in which our brains link successive “snapshots” of perception the way movie films and TV images present successive “shapshots” of movement that our brains link together — via memory — into the impression of continuous action). Since, by tendency, we lack continuous perception of habitual actions, we may need to make numerous repetitions of the action to develop sufficient perception to apprehend the Controlling Moment and to make the change.
Rolfing, as commonly practiced, is a soft-tissue manipulation process that, as Ida Rolf put it, is an educational practice intended to evolve more efficiently functioning human beings. As such, it is a form of somatic education, although indirectly so (except for its more direct, but less potent form, “Rolfing Movement-Integration”.
Ida Rolf made a distinction between “Intrinsic Movement” and “Extrinsic Movement.” She defined “extrinsic movement” as “immature movement” and “intrinsic movement” as “mature movement.”
Now to clarify those meanings.
Intrinsic Movement is movement we originate with awareness of the Controlling Moment — the root of action — intention.
Extrinsic Movement is movement we originate with more concern for how the movement looks or conforms to the expectations of others (or social standards) than by how it feels — and so is immature movement that we may characterized as “obedience”, “conformity”, “going through the motions”.
She also distinguished two “layers of depth” of the musculature and myofascial web: intrinsic musculature and extrinsic musculature, or “core” (intrinsic”) and “sleeve” (extrinsic).
The intrinsic muscles are those most immediately responsive to the shift from rest into full activity, which corresponds to the shift from rest (or unreadiness) into readiness for activity. Examples of intrinsic muscles include the finest, deepest muscles of the spine, the tongue, the muscles of focusing, the psoas muscles.
The extrinsic muscles add power to the pattern of organization set by activation of intrinsic muscles. So, it may be said that visually seeing organizes the body for motion. Thus, “Look where you’re going,” has an intuitively understandable meaning.
Another distinction she made was of two variations of poor integration:
soft (open or free) core, hard (restrictive or tight) sleeve — conformity — “going through the motions,” “going along to get along”
hard (restrictive or tight) core, soft (open or free) sleeve — outwardly obedient, but internally resistant behavior
She distinguished another pattern, which she defined as the desirable, mature pattern
open core, free sleeve
That pattern corresponds to a kind of rest, rather than activity.
I distinguish yet another pattern:
freely responsive core and cooperative sleeve
This pattern is neither defined by a rest condition nor by an active condition, but by free modulation between both states, characterized by freedom from entrapment in either state. In other words, there’s relatively smooth continuity between an “open core, free sleeve” condition and a freely responsive core empowered by a cooperative sleeve.
Paradoxically, it’s impossible to tell by a moment’s observation whether a person is entrapped, since their state of core and sleeve may be a momentary response (or even a frequent one). Only over the long term can we tell whether an action pattern is free or compulsorily maintained by habit. We can’t even tell, about ourselves, unless we are aware of our own Controlling Moments and the continuity of those moments with the movement into full rest.
Again, paradoxically, spontaneity shows up when the person moves easily from state to state. A true “Controlling Moment” arises from the ‘open core, free sleeve” (undefined) condition — Source.
Again, habitual fixation in a pattern at the Controlling Moment or in Powering Up interferes with this free condition, since a person can neither move freely from action to rest, nor does their action, when carried out, reflect their direction, as determined at their Controlling Moments.
Ultimately, an approach from the outside, in (such as passive bodywork) can lead only to immature patterns of function, since we activate our core from the inside, out (intrinsically), and outside-in approaches, even those that contact the intrinsic muscular or depth, are inherently extrinsic (at least at the beginning). Hence, the absolute necessity, with all kinds of bodywork, Rolfing included, for training in self-mastery to complement the changes of an outside-in approach. That training may start as movement education using the World Continuing Education Alliance, but should mature toward Transcendental Realization and stages of personal (and cultural) evolution. (See Ken Wilber’s AQAL — “All Quadrant, All Level, All Line” Kosmological (yes, spelled correctly) model. “Kosmos” means, “all that is, subjective and objective, whereas “cosmos” refers only to “astronomical reality”. “Kosmos” is to “cosmos” as “soma” is to “body”, objectively seen.)
A final quote from Ida Rolf:
Comprehensive recognition of human structure includes not only the physical body, but also the psychological personality — behavior, attitudes, capacities.
That description places The Rolf Method of Structural Integration squarely in the field of somatic education, even though its primary method harkens back to an earlier approach to human development.
But here’s the odd thing: when a back spasm happens, it’s most often been coming for a long time.
The Back Story of Most Back Pain
Back during a period of prolonged high stress — maybe during an employment crisis or facing deadline after deadline after deadline — you got yourself used to driving yourself hard or used to being in a state of urgency. Maybe you listen to too much news or talk radio and get “wound up”. Maybe you stayed too long in a situation you really wanted to get out of, or maybe you put and kept yourself in uncomfortable positions, by sense of necessity, that you would rather have gotten out of, and got part-way used to that, while keeping going. Or maybe you just “trained” badly or trained on top of old injuries. You’re musclebound, whatever the story, and ended up having a back spasm.
It’s been coming for a long time, your back spasm — you’ve been getting closer to the edge of cramp or spasm for a long time. You got so used to being tense and stiff that, one day, you pulled on that tenseness and stiffness and it pulled you right back, something like an internally generated whiplash action.
What If It Was a Whiplash Incident?
Maybe you were involved in an accident that yanked or jerked or jolted you a bit too much.
Then, you tightened up suddenly, experienced a sudden yank-back, and you knew you were caught. What started as a protective stiffening became a back spasm.
Back Spasms Come from and Are Maintained by Muscle/Movement Memory
“Caught in your own conditioning”– thinking about that — your back spasms come from your conditioning — how you remember your back muscles’ “normal” (habituated) condition.
We all caught in our conditioning, our memories of how things are, to varying degrees and in different ways. Had you noticed?
However, sometimes, it’s just too much, and with just one more challenge we suddenly go hard-line, uptight, tense, caught in the grip of our own conditioning, in spasm, body and mind (two aspects of the same thing). Think about it: didn’t your back spasm stop you in your tracks? mid-step? It wasn’t just “a back spasm“; it was a “you spasm“.
The Problem with a “You Spasm”
Not enough capacity, not enough tolerance for additional demand. On edge, trying to be nice, perhaps. Not much more capacity for stress, however. Used up, or close to it, in the grip.
Recover much of that reserve capacity by dispeling obsolete tension patterns. Lose the excess tension. Get back to normal. Recover your reserve capacity. Feel like a human being. You may have forgotten what that feels like and you may not have known that you can do it, yourself.
Common Back Spasms are Simple
“Simple When You Know How”
Common Back Pain is a fairly simple condition to master. It’s just a primitive “go” reaction (“Landau Reaction“) turned on too hard and too long. You’re overheated; you’re idling too high. You can learn to turn this reflex (Landau Reaction) down and up again, temper it, recover a bunch of reserve capacity, flexibility and freedom of movement. No more spasm, no more back pain, more reserve capacity, more movability.
Back Spasms from Injury are More Complex, Take More Doing to Clear Up
Back pain from injury may consist of a number of overlying contraction patterns. However, bending over or twisting and getting a spasm isn’t an injury; it’s a malfunction that falls under “Common Back Pain”. Recovering from a complicated injury isn’t more difficult, particularly; it just takes more steps, some sorting out, and more doing, of course.
The same principle applies, either way.
Recover voluntary (deliberate) control of the muscular grip and let it relax, then deliberately use it freely and so reclaim it. Strength, reserve capacity, free control. Security.
One Right Reason
That’s one very good purpose of somatic education — to get people out of pain. It’s effective, it’s faster than more well-known or popularized methods, and it brings durable benefits under all life conditions.
Different — and More Like Yourself
A larger effect of somatic education is to train people to free themselves from the excessive grip of their conditioning; to re-acquaint people with what it feels like to feel fine; so people feel different and more like themselves.
Relief comes primarily from what the person does, secondarily from what someone else did with the person. If you do sessions of this process, you contribute at least 50% to the change, moving between effort and non-effort (in clinical sessions), or more like 90% if you’re working at a distance from me (Lawrence Gold) following recorded instructional material and taking distance-coaching, as needed.
Because the person is contributing energy, intention, and intelligence to the process, and because they’re changing from within (if guided from out), the change is theirs — theirs to maintain or theirs to re-create, if necessary. More than that, it’s faster than by externally operating methods, whether scalpel, laser, or stretching device (“spinal decompression”), longer-lasting than manipulations or interventions of many kinds. It’s longer-lasting because it covers more of the bases and from the internal control center, the self, oneself, and faster because it works from the inside, out.
This entry is for you if you have bruxism, orofacial pain, earaches, TMJ headaches, or clench your teeth at night.
Oscar W. in Session for TMJ Dysfunction
Once again, I am drawn to address common practices used to alleviate common health conditions. In this case, it’s TMJ Dysfunction (or “TMD” or “TMJ Syndrome”), a condition that people commonly expect to take months or years to clear up, but which can be cleared up in weeks by oneself or faster with clinical somatic education sessions.
The Essence of TMJ Dysfunction
Common dental practices overlook the root of the condition: neuromuscular conditioning caused by trauma (injury, previous dental work) or long-term emotional stress (particularly, anger). Even “neuromuscular dentistry” approaches the situation indirectly, by changing such things as a person’s bite pattern; the “neuromuscular” part exists in their minds, but not in their way of approaching the situation.
“Neuromuscular conditioning” means the way the brain has learned to control (or regulate) a certain function — in this case, the tension and movements of the jaws. It’s a function of what is colloquially called, “muscle memory or movement memory.
The common therapeutic means for addressing the condition address symptoms, rather than causes.
As a clinical somatic education practitioner, I’ve developed an effective and reliable self-relief program, which addresses exactly the underlying cause of TMJ Syndrome: the reflexive muscular action in the muscles of biting a chewing that causes the complex array of symptoms associated with TMJ Syndrome.