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Somatic Therapy is a system of neuromuscular reeducation based on the work developed by Thomas Hanna, PhD. Hanna was influenced by the ideas of Moshe Feldenkrais, a pioneer in the field of sensory-motor learning. I studied with Jim Dreaver, DC, who studied with Hanna and adapted the somatic method to the chiropractic model and wrote a text on the subject.
Stress, overuse and injury cause a reflexive (involuntary) tightening of our muscles. If the tightness becomes chronic, these reflexive muscular contraction persist and eventually become chronically tight. Due to involuntary control and our inability to relax these areas we develop what Hanna called sensory-motor amnesia (SMA), resulting in pain, stiffness, reduced range-of- motion, vertebral subluxations (mis-aligned vertebrae), fatigue and increased susceptibility to injury. The goal of somatic technique is to reawaken normal sensory-motor or cortical control of the muscles. Dr. Dreaver says that the ability to voluntarily contract or relax a muscle is directly dependent on the degree to which the muscle can be sensed or felt.
Somatic technique is an excellent soft tissue technique for removing chronic muscle tightness, helping patients to become more aware of their bodies, allowing subluxations to be more easily reduced and (as a method of treating the paraspinal soft tissue) to prevent the subluxation from reoccurring.
The technique works by restoring the feedback loop. It actually teaches the patient how to regain control over his/her own muscles. The principle of sensory-motor feedback says that if you increase sensory awareness, you automatically get more motor control. By having the patient contract the already tight muscle even further against a resistive force applied by the doctor, new and powerful sensory input is being created. The muscle is then gradually lengthened while still under resistance.
Here is a good description of the technique: http://hannasomatics.com/index.php/about_somatics/what_is_somatics/
Using this technique reawakens normal sensation and feeling, and results in an immediate softening and lengthening of the muscle, reduced pain, improved range of motion and an increased feeling of energy and well-being. The results can be quite dramatic. Special somatic exercises are also given to the patient help maintain the improvement. Somatic Therapy should be explored by anyone suffering from chronic pain and stiffness that may be muscular in origin.
Contact me at my office in Novato, CA for more information.