Healthy Beginnings

Reduce pain naturally with the Feldenkrais method

Carole Bucher teaches a Feldenkrais method class at her office in Reno.

In our 21st century world, tethered to electronic devices, we stressed-out humans are deeply reliant on the autopilot feature of our brains. From this, unconscious actions and movements, unplanned thoughts and often-inexplicable deeds arise.

Periodically and persistently, physical pain penetrates this murky realm to remind us that autopilot isn’t such a great mode for our bodies. Years of poor posture and repetitive, mindless movement take their toll, illustrated by an absence of connection to our bodies and a lack of understanding about where our pain comes from. Something needs to change.

No amount of prescription pharmaceuticals, steroid shots or surgical “fixes” or time on a therapeutic table will cure movement-related pain — or prevent it from returning.

Why? Because the problem stems from how we use our whole body and from our habits, not just from the part that feels the pain. Physical therapy, chiropractic or surgical procedures will never change this. You are the only one who can.

Enter the Feldenkrais Method, where we learn to recognize and feel movement patterns, relieve pain and stress, and create permanent change in our structure. Here, we accept the responsibility for participating in our own outcome; we can regain optimism and create a new future for ourselves.

The Feldenkrais Method is a body and brain-retraining system that teaches us to reorganize our movements from the inside out. By working with attention and sensation, we use our muscles and skeleton naturally to reduce pain and stress, and to increase efficient, stable movement.

We practice this powerful intervention by doing slow, meticulously designed, non-habitual movement sequences in group classes or private sessions. We sense which movements are easy and which are difficult; we work at our own level.

In this way, we begin to create real change in the way we move, discovering new movement strategies to help us feel better, stronger and more comfortable.

Now back to autopilot. Humans have a highly developed, capable autopilot function that serves many useful purposes. Yes, we can find our keys each day when we put them in the same place, but we pay heavily for the convenience. This is especially true of repetitive movement habits — which kill change and variability, those critical neural stimulators of our brains.

Without noticing, we can become profoundly disconnected from our bodies. We are not aware of where we are in space. Suddenly we have a running accident, or hurt ourselves in a yoga class, or fall off a ladder. We encounter pain and injury because our brains are not connected to our bodies.

Practicing Feldenkrais directly counteracts our autopilot function. By learning to pay attention to our bodies and heed the signals it sends, we do two crucial things:

  • First, our increased awareness helps us to notice and feel movements that cause pain. And because our nervous system chooses comfort over pain, our brains naturally shift away from pain-producing movement.
  • Second, improved self-awareness reduces muscular tension and stress as we move through our day. Such relaxation improves skeletal alignment, balance and even coordination.

Together, these produce calm and confidence, reduce pain, and open channels to greater vitality, creativity and wellbeing.

So — the next time you feel pain in your body while moving, try this: Pause and identify exactly what large and small movements may have triggered the pain. Then reverse the movement carefully and see what you can do to diminish the pain.

Little by little, this is a way to improve your neurological process and to explore and reduce pain unwittingly caused by mindless movement. Additionally, in the morning or evening, take time to lie on the floor and feel how the right and left sides of the body meet the ground, comparing differences.

This Feldenkrais practice, with attention, helps manage pain by updating our brain-map and giving the brain fresh data to use as it makes movement choices. You can rely on it.

Carole Bucher, BA, is a Guild-Certified Feldenkrais practitioner/teacher and owner of Reno Feldenkrais Integrative Movement. Visit renofeldenkrais.blogspot.com to learn more.