Practitioner Meena Narula has been working with persons experiencing chronic pain for over a decade. As a physical therapist she used various modalities to reduce the symptoms. She says, “These procedures appeared to provide temporary relief with very little lasting benefit. Though I was able to help some people, a vast majority had difficulty concentrating and many did not follow through with their home program.”
Sometime in the 80’s Meena began to experience symptoms of pain, swelling and a decreased ability to function. She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and living with pain on a daily basis took on a new meaning. It also forced her to look beyond traditional ways of providing physical therapy to her clients. She graduated as a Feldenkrais® practitioner in 1992. Since then she has worked with many individuals who have chronic pain and with many physicians who refer their clients to her facility. Besides teaching her clients about the causes of pain, Meena stresses the need for developing kinesthetic awareness.
Physical educators Kreighbaum and Barthels state: “To develop a frame of reference for kinesthetic sensations, an individual must experience a variety of positions and movements in many environments. The perceptions associated with these situations are then stored in the brain for use as a reference for future movements. Precise and accurate motor responses are developed from the integration of information from the cutaneous, joint, tendon, muscle and labyrinthine receptors.”
Awareness Through Movement® allows the individual to experience a wide variety of positions and movements in different operations. Gradually, as kinesthetic sense increases, the individual’s performance skill for a particular task improves.
Meena often uses elements from the Awareness Through Movement lesson “Painting the Body” as an introduction to body awareness. The individuals are guided to begin painting non-painful areas of their body and then gradually paint around the painful areas.
Mark Reese and David Zemach-Bersin developed a series of lessons called Relaxercise which have helped many people with chronic pain to discover for themselves the easiest way to turn, bend, straighten, sit, stand and walk. Awareness Through Movement lessons designed to address breathing are also helpful (see the lesson in this issue).
Functional Integration® lessons are very gentle. Meena uses the concepts of support, “going with the pattern” and inducing shortening in shortening muscles; all appear to help people with chronic pain. She begins at a distance from the painful area, trying to be in tune with the client. When she detects a sense of discomfort in their posture, she has them change their position. Many who experience chronic pain report a sense of relief, a lightness, and a “difference.”
Dr. John Chester, another Feldenkrais practitioner, suggests that “treatments which lead to increased patient understanding and an acceptance of personal responsibility for the further course of their life will facilitate participation in health promoting activities…”
Meena adds, “Understanding the nature of chronic pain and the rationale for using the Feldenkrais Method® helps them become participants in their own healing.”