When the Body Tilts
These words were taken directly from Somatics: Reawakening the Minds Control of Movement, Flexibility and Health by Thomas Hanna.
Trauma causes the sideways tilting of the trunk. Long-term stress affects the body on both sides equally. But it does not cause tilting. But trauma will affect the body only on the side where the injury occurred, causing the muscles to cringe and curve the body to one side. The trauma reflex can be triggered by any severe damage to the body. The trauma reflex can also be triggered by surgery: a spastic cringing reaction will occur in the muscles surrounding the site of surgery.
Equally frequent are trauma reflexes on one side of the body after a severe fall on the hip, or following a sprained ankle or a broken leg. The inability to put weight on the injured leg causes an automatic shift of weight to the other leg. This is not a voluntary action; it is a reflex to avoid the pain. One cannot help but “favor” the uninjured leg. Tailors as well as chiropractors will frequently tell their clients that one of their legs is shorter than the other. Out of hundreds of persons who have been told that, I have never seen one whose leg was actually shorter; in every case, the muscles of the center of the body were chronically contracted, pulling up the hip on the side …
There are as many varieties of the trauma reflex as there are ways for humans to injure themselves, ranging from the brusquely to the subtly violent and from a whiplash twist of the neck. Except in obvious cases of severe accidents and compression fractures, sciatica is a relatively common adaptive disease. Like all diseases of adaptation, it is directly related to the amount of stress and trauma that has occurred in that person’s life. The longer we live, the more chance we have to experience stress and trauma; therefore, sciatica is often associated with the diseases of aging. But it can occur at any age. As a disease of adaptation sciatica can be either avoided of remedied. Teaching people how to avoid or get rid of the sciatic condition has been one of the more interesting aspects of my work as a somatic educator. I am frequently consulted by persons with severe sciatica who are desperate to avoid surgery.
A baker in his early 40s hobbled into my office with excruciating sciatic pains down his left leg to his big toe. He was terrified of the pain, but more terrified of the back surgery that was considered “necessary.” After a few somatics sessions, he regained sensation and motor control of the lumbar and left trunk muscles … As it turned out, the disc had merely been bulging from the viselike pressure of involuntary contraction in the lower back muscles. With the contractions now under his voluntary control, the vertebrae returned to their normal condition. To perpetually celebrate the fact that his back is perfectly sound, he now makes a great show of lifting 100-pound sacks of flour into his mixing machine. He has been doing this for three years.
It is this near-miraculous capacity of human consciousness and the central nervous system to learn and adapt that is the theme of this book. We are capable of far more than we believe ourselves to be. As we learn more and more about the ways in which brain functions control, maintain, repair, and protect our bodies, we come more and more to respect this marvelous capacity we have. We are far less dependent and helpless than we believe ourselves to be; which is to say, we are far more responsible and self-governing than we know.