Why don’t many physicians know about sensory motor amnesia if it causes so much pain, disease, and postural distortion? Thomas Hanna explains this in Chapter 1 in his book Somatics. Here in chapter 1 is a case study of one client, (Barney), who had chronic pain in his right side:
“In addition, he would frequently lose his balance and stumble. When his physician heard his complaint she ordered x-rays but she saw no obvious deformity. She concluded that 42 years of vigorous wear and tear had caused arthritic deterioration of the hip joint. She told Barney, who was a tall man, that he had arthritis, typical of the aging process, and that he had to learn to live with it. She prescribed aspirin and bed rest on days when the pain was extreme.
Not satisfied with this treatment, Barney went to a chiropractor, who told him that the bones of his lower spine were out of alignment and needed adjustment. He adjusted Barney’s spine, but the hip continued to hurt. Barney then went to an acupuncturist, who determined which meridians were involved and inserted needles in the appropriate spots. That relieved Barney’s pain, but four days later it came back. So, with this history, which is typical, Barney presented himself to me (Hanna). He had heard that I do something unusual called Somatic education, which no one quite understood but which nonetheless was said to be highly successful. Having heard his story, I wanted to find where the pain was. Barney pointed to the back of his right pelvis in the areas between the hip joint and the sacrum. I felt the area. The line of pain was in the gluteus medius muscle, which extends across the buttocks from the top of the thigh to the back center of the pelvis. It is the muscle that we usually contract when standing on one leg. It braces the leg against the pelvis to maintain stability while we lean over to one side. Barney’s hip joint was not painful either to the touch or during the movement. It was the gluteus medius muscle that was painfully sore. I informed Barney that he did not have arthritis, but had a painfully overworked muscle that was sore from over-contraction. “Why did my physician tell me I had arthritis, he asked? I told him I did not know. I knew that x-rays do not show muscle tissue, painful or not, and I knew that it was common for physicians to tell patients suffering with chronic and medically incurable pain that they had arthritis and there was nothing to do for it. The ancient myth of aging is firmly embedded in modern medicine.
Now that I knew precisely where Barney’s pain was, I asked him to stand directly in front of me with his eyes closed. Barney’s entire trunk was leaning almost 15 degrees to the right. Because the bulk of his weight was always on his right ride, his gluteus medius muscle on that side was always contracted. Barney looked like the leaning tower of Pisa. As Barney stood there I felt his left gluteus medius muscle. It was soft and uncontracted. Then I felt the same muscle on the right side. It was hard and contracted. When I felt the muscles of his back they were similar. The left side muscles were relatively soft and relaxed whereas the left back muscles were tense, especially those near the spinal column. The muscles on Barney’s right side were chronically contracted pulling him in a scoliotic curve, so that the added weight of his trunk caused his right gluteus medius muscle to contract constantly thus the chronic pain and fatigue in the muscle.
I asked Barney if he had any injuries of a serious nature. He said yes. Five earlier he had broken his left thigh in an automobile accident. At that point I knew why he had begun leaning to the right. It is common after leg fractures to tilt one’s body to the other side, putting its weight on the leg that is uninjured. During the long weeks of healing, Barney’s right leaning became habituated and totally unconscious. A traumatic accident had brought sensory motor amnesia. Once Barney was taught how to sense his muscular movements as he once did, and once he learned ways to control his muscle, three things occurred:
He no longer had any pain in the pelvis despite the “arthritis” of old age.
He now stood vertical, with his weight equally balanced on each leg and with his trunk muscles balanced left and right.
His sense of balance was restored so that he knew when he was vertical and when he was tilted. He no longer had the precarious posture that caused him to stumble constantly.
In brief, Barney no longer had sensory motor amnesia and better still, he now possessed that happy knowledge of how to prevent this from ever occurring again. He was now self maintaining (by doing certain somatic exercises) no longer needing my help nor the help of any other health professional to control this problem.”
I, the writer, Mary Ann Gray Voorhies, have had similar experiences with my own clients, which I will tell you about later.
You can also go on my website which is www.healingself.net and read some of the testimonials.
Addendum: I do not wish to denigrate the effectiveness of acupuncture or chiropractic services as I know that they are highly effective in certain cases. In fact, I go myself. Similarly, somatics cannot alleviate all pain and diseased conditions either, but Thomas Hanna does claim that clinical Somatic Education can eventually eradicate about half of what ails human beings.