Individual Physiotherapy Featuring Feldenkrais
Treatment with a Feldenkrais Physiotherapist at Free2Move begins in exactly the same way as you would expect with any Physiotherapist. We start with a comprehensive assessment of your signs and symptoms. We will only use techniques and exercises based on the Feldenkrais Method when it is clinically indicated. This means that it must fall within the accepted scope of clinical practice.
At your initial assessment we will not only ask about your medical history, but also your goals and aspirations, your exercise patterns, your work, interests and hobbies. We take the time to listen to what’s really important to you. Together we work out a plan that will help you achieve your goals in the shortest time possible.
If you have one or more long-standing problems, we may look at lifestyle factors that may be interfering with your progress. We may ask you to complete questionnaires that measure your baseline level of functioning so that we’ll know when you have improved.
Although the majority of the assessment will occur at your first appointment, it may take 2 or 3 sessions before we have the full clinical picture, especially if you have complex chronic problems that have not responded to other treatments.
In the case where you do not have pain but an issues such as balance or osteoporosis, treatment would move straight to the learning phase.
Pain relief phase
If your pain is severe or distressing the first goal is usually to reduce your pain. You will not be able to learn new movement habits if you are in severe pain.
Pain treatment at Free2Move usually involves an appropriate combination of conventional Physiotherapy techniques such as joint mobilisation, massage, dry needling (a form of acupuncture) or gentle stretches. We are likely to give you home exercises and advice about how to reduce strain on the affected area during the course of your daily activities. We may refer you back to your GP for further testing or review of your medication where appropriate.
Conventional physiotherapy treatment is often the most helpful way to relieve acute pain. The problem is that when pain becomes chronic, it may only bring temporary relief. This is where our Feldenkrais training is really useful.
Individual learning phase: movement re-education
Once your pain is under control to a level where you are able to focus on learning, we start to address your posture and movement. This is a form of movement re-education.
Inefficient movement habits are often the underlying drivers of pain. Instead of focusing on the pain itself we look at your FUNCTION. What do you want to be able to do effortlessly and painlessly? We use a combination of Physio and Feldenkrais, as appropriate to your condition. We help you improve your movement functions and integrate them into your everyday life. This is why individual Feldenkrais sessions are known as Functional Integration
The process often starts with a single movement that you have been finding difficult. We observe your whole body as you try doing that movement (not just the part of the body where the pain or weakness is located). As a result of our Feldenkrais training, we are often able to pick up things that other therapists have missed.
We show you more comfortable and efficient options that may never have occurred to you. The process involves focussing all your attention on how you are moving and then reducing excess effort and tension. Excess tension results in wear and tear and contributes to chronic pain. Improving even just one movement may result in other movements improving too.
You learn best when you are relaxed and not in pain, so the treatment is usually completely comfortable.
Over a course of the next few treatments, we work with you to make as many movements as possible painless and easy. This is done by helping you change the way you organise your whole body. We also give you home exercises to reinforce the learning process.
It’s often a surprise that movement habits you were not even aware of are contributing to pain, tension and a feeling of weakness. When you clearly sense a more comfortable and powerful way to move, it starts to change the way you move. This happens not only when you are thinking about it but even when you are operating on ‘autopilot’. The process is usually effortless, in fact trying too hard often just increases pain and tension.
If pain recurs or worsens at any point in the treatment process we are able to draw from the full range of conventional physiotherapy techniques to bring relief.
Pain management phase
We now know that all pain is entirely experienced through the brain and nervous system. We use what is called the biopsychosocial model of treating chronic pain. Emotions, stress, trauma, repetitive negative thinking or relationship issues can all contribute to the pain experience. This may cause pain to persist beyond the normal period where tissue healing occurs.
Research shows that simply understanding this can help people with chronic pain to cope better and minimize the experience of pain. So part of our process is to ensure that our clients have access to educational materials about current pain neuroscience.
During the process of movement re-education, most clients discover parts of the body where they are subconsciously holding on as a form of self-protection. An example would be holding the breath or stiffening the lower ribs in a way that is contributing to lower back pain. When you feel this for yourself and learn to let go, it’s often a tremendous relief.
However Feldenkrais is far more than a way to relax. It also teaches you to find the most bio-mechanically efficient pathways of movement. You can then produce more force with less effort, through better alignment of your skeleton and use of your muscles.
Once you have developed more comfortable and efficient movement patterns we have various options to help you strengthen the new movement patterns and the associated muscles. The Exercise Rehab programme held in our Studio or our Feldenkrais or Pilates floor classes are a great way to continue this process.
This is where everything you have learned about moving more comfortable comes together. You understand how to get strong without making your pain worse. It may be possible to return to activities you once enjoyed such as sports, yoga, Pilates, going to the gym, swimming or running. The treatment and education we provide bridges the gap so that you can confidently return to physical activities you enjoy.
Home exercises and regular individual progress reviews ensure that you stay on track with reaching your movement and physical activity goals.
How Does Feldenkrais Work?
The Feldenkrais Method is supported by the latest cutting-edge neuro-science. We now know that the brain is ‘plastic’ and can change. This is known as neuroplasticity.
Movement and posture are habitual. This means that much of the time we move automatically, without consciously thinking about it. Most methods of trying to change these habits don’t work. The reason is that we can’t consciously think about our posture for very long. As soon as we focus your attention on something else we slip back into old habits.
To change habits we have to actually change the brain and nervous system. To do this we need to create the optimal circumstances for learning. We learn best when we focus our attention on what we are doing, while remaining as relaxed and comfortable as possible.
In Feldenkrais classes and individual sessions, we engage in a series of movement explorations. We improve our ability to sense new and more efficient movement options. We compare different ways of moving to find what is most comfortable. The process of learning expands the network of connections in the brain and nervous system.
Gradually we become more aware of more subtle sensations. This allows us to more quickly notice if we are in an uncomfortable position. We can then change what we are doing before pain or discomfort develop.
Our style of movement changes too. Movements which may have been stiff, awkward or painful, become smoother, comfortable and often completely pain-free. This process is often gradual, and yet at times people experience dramatic improvements very quickly.
With chronic or persistent pain, pain itself becomes a habitual pattern in the nervous system. In order to change the pain, you actually have to change the brain. This is what Moshe Feldenkrais understood so well. Changing our habitual automatic patterns as well as consciously improving our movements is the basis of everything we do in Feldenkrais.