From RSI to Ease and Freedom
Monday, April 3, 2017
by: Ira Feinstein, MFA

Section: Recovery

By the time I received the letter from the State of Oregon saying that I had been labeled “permanently partially disabled,” I’d been struggling with chronic lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow, for two years. I was 25 when the injury started. I’d been working as a package handler at Fed Ex, moving boxes in the morning and sorting envelopes in the evening. Grabbing a handful of envelopes at a time and tossing them Frisbee-like into the appropriate zip code labeled bin had caused the problem. My movements were akin to only using my backhand while playing tennis for a couple of hours per day, five days a week. After a few months, the movements caught up with me.
Over the years between my initial injury and the declaration by the state that my arms had permanently lost a certain degree of movement, I’d regularly been treated by chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists, an osteopath, and a few physical therapists. Although the worst was over—I could now brush my hair and pour a glass of orange juice without pain—I couldn’t type or ride a bike or do anything that put pressure on my arms without causing a flare up. Reminiscent of a child wearing floaties in a pool, I had to wear bands around my wrists and forearms while working to keep the pain at a minimum.
At 27, I landed an office job and the small, micro movements required to answer phones, use a computer mouse and open envelopes caused an acute flare up, sending me back to physical therapy. The physical therapist would tape up my back to pull my rounded shoulders outward. “Be aware of how you’re holding yourself,” she said. “Keep your shoulders pulled back.” I would focus on my shoulders for as long as I could, but eventually life got in the way and I’d think about something else, anything else. The weekly taping of my back eventually caused my skin to become irritated and raw. My arms still hurt. With little benefit to show for it, I quit.
It was around this time that I found out about the Feldenkrais Method®, although it would still take another year for me to try it out. The simple, minimal movements of an Awareness Through Movement® lesson were elegant to watch, but I couldn’t see how they’d benefit me. It took another flare up, my arms burning and throbbing with pain, for me to become desperate enough to contact a practitioner.
I began to have weekly Functional Integration® lessons. For the first few weeks, I’d walk out of a lesson feeling more at ease in my body. Yet despite this general sense of openness and lightness, I couldn’t understand how it connected to my arm pain. Never once at the end of a lesson, did my practitioner ask me to pull my shoulders back or stretch at a wall five times a day. How was I supposed to heal without effort?
The lessons continued, as did the sense of ease until one beautiful fall day when I was walking in downtown Portland, through the park blocks—city blocks of green space that goes from one side of the city to the other. The light from the sun was radiating down through yellow leaves still on the trees, causing them to glow. It was one of those moments when you want to stop time for the sheer delight of being alive. I was taking in my surroundings and breathing the crisp air when I noticed that my shoulders were back! I was walking—nay, gliding, down the street. My chest was open and proud, my stride strong and forthright. I didn’t need to consciously think about how to properly move or hold my body--my body knew how to move. And I was letting it.
Before the Feldenkrais Method, I hadn’t thought it was possible to recover from my injury. I thought that I would forever be “permanently partially disabled.” However, over the course of my lessons, my tennis elbow did in fact heal.  But even more important than that? The ease and grace I was so surprised to find myself embodying that day at the park has stayed with me and affected all parts of my life. 

Ira Feinstein is a writer and communications manager living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
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Comments (1)
Beth Lord
4/6/2017 2:15:05 PM
It's a lovely article and I'm so glad you found Feldenkrais. I've been one since 1991. I too am a writer and like peoples' stories in softbound 50-page books. It's an easier methodology, easier read and I believe it's an aspect of Feldenkrais that allows us to move through our blocks. Take a look at my website and if you like what you see, let's connect further and get to know how we can work with each other. Thank-you for the 'article.

Sincerely Yours,

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