Many hands-on therapies exist to improve the way our bodies function. However, unlike some massage techniques, movement therapies are grounded in kinesiology.
Kinesiology is the scientific study of human or nonhuman body movement. Kinesiology addresses physiological, biomechanical, and psychological mechanisms of movement.
Before I began my journey with chronic pain, I didn’t give much thought to kinesiology. Like most nurses and physicians, I didn’t get such training in school. I wish I had. Following are some popular movement therapies.
In the late 1800’s, actor Frederick Matthias Alexander concluded that bad posture and poor physical habits were responsible for his chronic voice loss. Rooted in good posture Alexander Technique is a method of physical retraining using a series of simple movements that focus on improving the relationship of our head, neck, and spine to improve balance, posture, and coordination, and also to restore relaxed balance and relieve pain. Teachers focus on the way our bodies move and offer gentle, hands-on guidance and verbal instruction.
You can locate a teacher at the American Society for Alexander Technique™.
Aston® Kinetics (Aston Patterning)
Founded by former dancer Judith Aston, this integrated system of movement education, bodywork, and environmental evaluation focuses on training the body to move more efficiently and effortlessly. Aston Kinetics therapy follows an outline in which teacher and client work together to reveal and define the body’s individual posture and movement patterns. It helps participants identify stressful habits while meeting individual needs. Sessions can include any one or a combination of movement education tools. Advanced techniques include Arthro-Kinetics® (joint work) and toning.
Find a therapist at AstonKinetics.com.
As part of his recovery from a sports-related injury, nuclear physicist Moshe Feldenkrais devoted his life to studying the nervous system and human behavior. His “method of somatic education” is directed at breaking bad habits and learning to move our bodies with less effort. This technique combines functional integration and awareness through movement, which includes subtle exercise, movement training, gentle touch, and verbal teaching of body position awareness during movement. The Feldenkrais Method is said to reduce stress and tension, alleviate chronic pain, and improve balance and coordination.
Hellerwork Structural Integration
Developed by former aerospace engineer Joseph Heller, this technique combines deep-tissue muscle therapy with movement and integrates counseling on emotional issues that affect our posture. Hellerwork practitioners understand that the way we hold our bodies can show confidence or feelings of insecurity. Unique and transformative from other forms of structural integration, Hellerwork.com tells us this therapy combines components of somatic psychology, active therapeutic dialogue, and movement education. For instance, if you decide to try Hellerwork, expect your practitioner to engage in verbal communication through active therapeutic dialogue as he or she repositions your body to identify problem areas and help you learn to relax. Biofeedback is a great example of how somatic psychology works. Your practitioner will also teach you about how to move with the least amount of stress. Movements as simple as how to get out of a chair can prevent pain.
Hellerwork.com offers a tool for locating a certified Hellerwork practitioner.
The Trager® Approach
Developed by Milton Trager, M.D., a specialist in neuromuscular conditions and a former boxer, acrobat, and dancer, this form of gentle, rhythmic touch and passive movement raises awareness of body positioning to help us change old patterns that cause restrictions. Two aspects of the Trager Approach include passive table-work in which we, the client, are moved by the therapist without any effort of our own, and active work.
Find a certified practitioner at Trager.com.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest some complementary approaches to chronic pain may help. It is my greatest hope that bodywork therapies of every kind, including movement therapies, are recognized by insurance providers as a way to improve patient outcome and reduce the cost of other covered invasive therapies that fail to help us.
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Celeste Cooper, R.N., is a freelance writer focusing on chronic pain and fibromyalgia. She is lead author of Integrative therapies for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Myofascial Pain and the Broken Body, Wounded Spirit: Balancing the See-Saw of Chronic Pain book series. She enjoys her family, writing and advocating, photography, and nature. Connect with Celeste through her website CelesteCooper.com, Twitter @FibroCFSWarrior, or follow her Facebook page.