Change pain by getting a refined sense of position and movement in your body.

Injury from physical or emotional damage can leave lingering effects of altered control in your muscle systems. There are likely areas that are over active and areas that are under active. Slight position changes can have a significant effect on your ability to increase your comfort but you can’t make little changes in a locked down system.

The common advice to just pull your shoulders back or pull your head back doesn’t work if the too tight muscles never lengthen.

There are endless streams of exercises that you might choose or be instructed to do to alter or improve pain, but this series is different. The focus here is not on certain exercises, or doing them right.

This series is about developing a detailed sense of the parts of your body and learning how to locate position sense and locate movement sense. These fundamental senses are often reduced by injury, habit, exposure to trauma, or never developed well in childhood in the first place.

Additionally, we tend to think of our muscles mechanically like big rubber bands or pulleys shortening lengthwise to move our bones. We have lost the idea that muscles can work in little bits, like a patch of well directed tension. We think of our bones as being one whole unit for movement when really, a bone will have regions of movement along its length.

You might be someone with low back pain. When you try to move your low back it feels stiff. When you get moving it loosens up but it doesn’t stay that way. Possibly some of the moving parts are doing all the work and the stuck parts remain stuck. In order to restore activity to the whole area, you need to develop a bit of a detective sense about what’s working, language for talking about this, and imagery that helps.

You have a built-in capacity for this but it often gets lost. There are many ways we can imagine our moving parts. This is a way to do it in imagery that is playful, useful, and linked to progressively greater embodiment and self healing.

I will be laying out some images, shapes, and language for the series. I will endeavor to give some basic ideas and then build more advanced ways to play with the ideas. But first, start getting the basics.

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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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Getting to know the top of your CORE

March 29, 2020

We’re going to get to know the top of your CORE which is a critical piece of you. This is important for comfort in the head and neck. It’s a critical piece for comfort in the shoulders and arms. And it’s a critical piece for addressing emotional holding patterns. Also, it’s a critical piece for […]

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Find 5 parts at top of your CORE

April 3, 2020

Ok, here we go. For now, there are 5 parts to notice. 1.) The top of the wedding cake is the top of your CORE. The top of the wedding cake is, of course, on top of the stack of cakes that represents the whole of the torso. 2.) At the center, on the front […]

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Top of your CORE front parts

April 2, 2020

The top of your core is represented by the top cake of a wedding cake. The top of the breastbone is represented in a piece of cantaloupe rind. The anatomical name for this bone is the manubrium. To each side of the cantaloupe are the collar bones represented in hot dogs.

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Locating Your Chest as part of your CORE.

April 16, 2020

Let’s say your goal is something perhaps expressed as decreased crankiness and increased calming abilities. We are going to use an awareness approach directed at movement control. We are opening up the interface between conscious and unconscious activity in our very basic brain and body structures. Of course, there are many different kinds of mindfulness […]

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Discharge changes traumatic muscle action but not postural patterns.

March 29, 2020

In Trauma Therapy processing, recovery eventually includes trauma releasing actions in muscle. Yet, despite lengthy trauma therapy, there is often still discomfort or pain associated with dysfunctional muscle tension. This is often coupled with physical damage, and or emotional damage. So, one could assume that the muscle pain and tension is related to some aspect […]

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Great neuroscience on the rhythm of breathing!

March 17, 2020

I came across this article and I thought it was really cool. Just when you might have thought breathing was a settled habit, this is about how the cells join their signals to create each breath in a unique way. If you take my ideas about how to loosen up the chest, the lower neck, […]

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General Orientation Directions for the body as a whole shape with differently recognized parts.

December 27, 2019

Use this as a warm up exercise if you want to start at an easy level. Many years ago I was working with a client with a severe pain problem in his leg. The problem included a remarkably complete dissociation-disconnection-loss of his leg below his knee and above the ankle. So, even though he had […]

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Imagine Your Neck using pancakes

January 15, 2020

This is a model of the neck using pancakes to represent different segments and their movement possibilities. The eyes in front are a reminder that there is a sense of where each segment is “looking”. The red licorice on the sides of the neck represents the large muscles there and then I take those off […]

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