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Natural Awakenings Boston

A Lasting Approach to Chronic Pain Relief

Mar 29, 2013 01:09PM ● By Sarah Warren

It’s reported that approximately 100 million Americans, representing about third of the population, suffer from chronic pain. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that, despite increasing dollars spent on treating back and neck pain, there was no improvement in the health or functioning of those suffering from spinal problems.

The JAMA study also found that medication expenditures comprised the greatest increase, as people spent more and more money to mask their pain. In fact, dollars could be more effectively spent on uncovering and addressing the underlying causes of chronic pain.

Somatic educators such as F. Matthias Alexander, Moshe Feldenkrais and Thomas Hanna all posited that chronic pain and physical deterioration is caused by habitual misuse of the body. During the early and mid-1900’s, early pioneers of somatic education explored how exercises that increased awareness of internal sensations often led to improved motor control in the body. While their work was not yet verifiable from a scientific standpoint, the methods used by these early educators were found to greatly improve motor function and eliminate chronic pain.

Building on the passive movement techniques developed by Alexander and Feldenkrais, Hanna explored active movement techniques, which proved to be more powerful in creating lasting changes in the way that people moved and sensed their bodies. Hanna saw people with chronic muscular pain, joint pain, and movement difficulties quickly and easily improve by regaining control of muscles that had been keeping them in their habitual posture and movement patterns. He labeled his methods Hanna Somatic Education.

Hanna Somatic Education is taught through a series of one-hour lessons that include both hands-on movements and self-care exercises. All of the movements are very slow and gentle, suitable for all ages and physical abilities. Somatic movement techniques work with the nervous system, releasing chronic muscular tension and making lasting changes to posture and movement patterns.

The purpose of the Somatic Education process is to not only reduce pain and regain awareness and control, but also to teach the client how to flow through the process without a practitioner. The ultimate goal after a series of hands-on sessions is that the client will gain the knowledge and understanding necessary to proceed on his or her own and be fully self-sufficient. Those who explore Hanna Somatic Education for chronic pain report that it provides lasting relief, along with improved posture.

More information about these techniques can be found in Hanna’s book Somatics: Re-awakening the Mind’s Control of Movement, Flexibility, and Health. The book features case studies and engaging explanations of how the sensory-motor system works and how people can improve with age and learn to be free from pain.


Sarah Warren is a Clinical Somatic Educator and co-owner of Somatic Movement Center, located at 440 Arsenal St. in Watertown. The center will offer a professional Somatic Education training program beginning this September 2013. For more information, visit SomaticMovementCenter.com or call 800-762-2998.

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