Editor’s note: Wellness Word is an informational column which is not meant to replace a healthcare professional’s diagnosis, treatment or medication.
Clinical Somatics is “neuromuscular reeducation, to help people get rid of pain.” Let’s dive a little deeper into what that means.
Everything your body does is controlled by your brain and nervous system. More specifically, your somatic nervous system (SNS) controls your conscious movements and what you feel as you make them. It’s the SNS at the heart of Clinical Somatic Education.
Something as simple as standing upright is learned. No one taught you how to do it. Rather, you educated yourself by doing and sensing.
When you learn to stand, walk, swing a golf club, knit, etc., neural pathways form between the brain and body to make those actions happen.
Think back to learning to ride a bike. There were many processes involved and with repeated practice, you eventually were able to ride your bike and, as the saying goes, “You never forget how to ride a bike.”
That motor pattern is ingrained in the nervous system. It works this way with any new movement pattern.
What does all this have to do with getting rid of pain? In the same way you learn useful patterns, you can also learn faulty ones; ones that put stress on your body and cause you pain.
Prolonged sitting, slumping toward electronic devices, contracting parts of your body in response to injury, even repeatedly hefting a backpack over one shoulder are some examples.
Stress and mood create tension patterns in our bodies. As you habituate these patterns, your brain learns to keep the muscles involved chronically contracted.
In Somatics, we call this loss of voluntary muscle control Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA). Somatic Educators don’t attempt to “fix” bodies. Instead of using force or manipulation, educators help humans re-claim their innate ability to sense and learn from themselves. Somatic Education incorporates simple, safe, enjoyable movements called pandiculations.
When your pet gets up from sleeping and looks like it’s stretching, it’s actually pandiculating.
Pandiculation is instinctive, and all healthy vertebrates (animals, babies, young children) pandiculate thirty to forty times a day.
Westernized adults not so much. When practiced regularly, pandiculations can “overwrite” faulty patterns.
The result is freer mobility and ease in one’s body. Decrepitude is often attributed to age, but in reality is just about how the brain and body are currently functioning.
In this 24/7 world of external stimuli, we all experience stress, and pain from time to time, but how we sense and react to both can be brought back under our voluntary control through Somatic Education.
The brain is “plastic,” meaning it can learn new ways of being, at any age.
When practiced regularly, Somatic Education can help reestablished movement patterns of freedom and ease, making chronic pain a thing of the past.
Kristin Jackson, CCSE, CPT thinksomatics.com 503.701.2179