How to use these image concepts to change pain

June 11, 2020

In this series I am providing you with images that you can mentally start to connect and pair with your internal sense of your body as a 3 dimensional, moveable grouping of parts. These images can be thought of as shapes.

For example, the image for the collar bones is a hot dog. When you break that down into 1/3 segments, you have 3 small horizontally oriented columns on each side. If you consider my image for the core as a stack of cakes, again you have a column. The image for the lower leg is a stack of donuts. This too is a shape that is like a column.

Thighs are a pretty muscular and softer area for many of us. Especially so if there’s padding from fat. No insults intended here, this is just the way many of us are. This is a more shapeless area and the image I paired here is bread dough on a vertical rolling pin. The rolling pin pairs with the sense of the thigh bone, your femur being something much denser within the softer dimensions of muscle and fat surrounding it.

The image for the foot is of a flat triangle with elastic properties. The narrow sense of the heel and the broader sense of the webbing at the base of the toes gives the felt sense of the shape. The idea of a big duck foot is an exaggeration. Sometimes imagining a shape as larger then it really is makes it easier to make the mental-body connection.

For any area that you are connecting yourself to better, for the purpose of changing pain, your starting place is to develop focus and curiosity in your internal awareness so that you can feel an area’s shape. There are millions of brain connections waiting in reserve for you to start to tap into. You may have disconnected or never developed these senses very well. But, your brain has this hidden network available to you. It’s there, but takes practice to build up your ease of tapping in.

So, you find the shape or shapes that relate to where you are focusing.

The next part of the process is to mentally begin to explore what way a shape is positioned relative to a center idea. In Physical Therapy descriptions of motion there are generally 3 dimensions of movement.

There is rotation around a vertical axis. At the connection of your head to the top of the neck this movement would be turning from side to side as if saying no. You might also call this twisting.

A movement forward and back is a second dimension of movement. If you were to reach for your toes, your core will shorten on its front side and lengthen on your back surface. With my image of your core as a stack of cakes, the frosting gets squished on the front and stretched apart on the back. In PT language forward bend is called flexion and backwards is extension.

As you explore movement in whatever shape you are noticing, you can feel for forward and backwards directions. Sometimes you will notice you never make it even to the center place between going forward and going backward. That’s okay, just allow your attention to invite motion towards what you perceive as missing from movement possibilities.

Of course if you are working with a severely arthritic joint like a big toe joint, you may not be able to regain some directions of motion. Being realistic is important too. In the low back if there’s significant narrowing of space for the big nerves, this too can make for a movement block. The limitation to motion is usually under the control of muscle and muscle will stop you from irritating and squishing nerves in tight boney passageways.

The third major motion is bending to a side. At the connection between your head and your neck this would be the movement of one ear going down and one going up.

All shapes of the body that you may be exploring here, can be invited to move in each of these 3 ways. Take note of where a part tends to position, and explore where that is in relationship to a sense of center.

If you are working on decreasing knee pain, here is something to notice. Are the top several segments of donuts at the top of your lower leg are twisted inward towards the other leg or outwards, away from the other leg. Evaluate the same sense at the lower part of the thigh. You may find your parts are not lining up in a fairly balanced way. Then you can begin to deepen your connection to the pattern of motion that corrects position towards centered.

You might wonder if you should be holding still or be in motion while you explore a shape and its position. Try both ways. I find that using attention and focus on a piece of yourself while walking can be helpful. The walking adds in lots of sensory signals that makes feeling a place come easier.

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