Neck Pain

"If your neck pain has been unrelenting, you’ve tried everything else, and maybe you have even given up hope, this website is for you; there is always hope, and in the somatic arena, stories abound about Feldenkrais® helping tremendously when nothing did. Take hope!” -SH


About Disabling Neck Pain

A full extension whiplash started me on my path to learning the Feldenkrais Method. But for 6 years I had the most disabling, torturous and chronic neck pain I could ever imagine. I had to use lots of castor oil rubs each day to keep the pain even a little bit manageable. During that time I lost my faith in God, I became embittered with Life. Too much pain, 24 hours a day, for too many years, can do that to a person.

I am just saying I know what serious neck pain is like, and if you also have such pain, this website is for you. My only viable path out of my pain was The Alexander Technique and The Feldenkrais Method®. I later became certified in the Feldenkrais Method®, and had a private practice for 25 years. I considered that neck pain relief was my specialty since that was my primary interest all along. What you see on this website, every single item will help your neck pain, some more than others. Please browse the site and start picking up ideas that appeal to you, that may fit your situation. 

As I struggled with my chronic neck pain I would come across good teachers, techniques, movements and ideas that would bring some relief. There was never just one thing that gave hope of complete relief forever, as I was hoping.  Some Feldenkrais® Awareness Through Movement (ATM) lessons would help, some would not, and others would even aggravate my pain.

When I first started my Feldenkrais® Training I had the firm intention of remembering and practicing anything that could help my neck. That lasted maybe one week. There was so much information in just one ATM that all I could do was go with the flow. My body could understand and even enjoy the ATM’s but my mind reeled.

 

In time, I began to understand that is typical of Feldenkrais®  It is a global approach, and any attempts to pin it down to a system fail. Feldenkrais® is oriented to the language of human movement; that language is not linear, there are no words. Furthermore, there are multiple dialects – sensation, feeling, thinking, imagination, intention, visualization, support, self-image, choice, flow, breath, and much more!

I was awestruck when I sat down and thought about it; I had to agree that even the simplest human movement has all that, and more. Truly, to make all that conscious could indeed be a unique and effective path to healing. One thing you can say for sure about Feldenkrais – once you get involved, and appreciate its organic sensibility, you’ll never be drawn to simplistic solutions. Because you know, down to your very bones, that there is a lot more to it.

I would try out an idea or a movement and even become obsessed with it for a time. Maybe a couple months, or a few days.  Then it was on to something new. Feldenkrais® is like that.  At first I was overwhelmed and thought it hopeless, to try and remember and integrate all those wonderfully helpful ideas and strategies.

It was interesting that even the best of ideas, would only work for so long. Either I’d get bored or my body stopped responding. I’d need something new. It was not until many years later, and many hundreds of clients – that I slowly began to piece together the essential pieces in what I’d call a comprehensive chronic neck pain protocol – Feldenkrais version.  Or, I should say, my Feldenkrais® version, because Feldenkrais® is too vast for any one version or one person to claim ownership. Here follows my neck pain protocol:

 

MechanicallyChronically lifted shoulders; a belly held over-tight most of the time; head forward posture to one degree or another; excess tension and compression; a serious deficiency in early developmental movement; walking with foot in front habitually with no relaxation response of the non-weight bearing leg, and over-active neck while gesturing or talking, fixity of eyes and neck due to hours at a computer, ungrounded movement without perceived skeletal support due to soft sofas and recliners and bucket seat office chairs (which freeze out organic movement); malalignment; and finally, working too hard, even while doing the most simple of tasks.

Psychologically: Over-focusing on the neck as the problem; an over-frontal self-image; an unthinking acceptance of a diagnosis as final; over-activation of the sympathetic nervous system; lack of hope; an over-dependence on intervention therapies: lack of understanding about, or unwillingness to investigate somatic education; a simplistic belief that good ergonomics, correct posture and corrective exercise and stretching is all there is; an unwillingness to face the idea that our own entrenched habits and ideas may play a role; preferring to blame the body rather than be proactive, and finally a passive acceptance of many wrong ideas related to movement, posture, alignment, stress management, breathing and movement re-education.

Somatically: Being too much in the head; accepting the body as a tormentor – having lost hope of being comfortable in the body; never moving slowly enough to feel what is going on; a seriously distorted body-image; a belief that the body and the mind are separate things; and compulsive movement, meaning lack of options for doing any particular movement.

 

The information on this website is not about managing acute neck injuries. For that you need immediate professional intervention. As a Feldenkrais Practitioner, I’d refuse to see you, if you came and told me you just had a whiplash car accident, and you had not been to the doctor yet, nor an MRI nor had chiropractic screening. This website information does not replace medical diagnosis, care or medications; it does not replace physical therapy or chiropractic care; it does not replace professional bodywork; it does not even replace Feldenkrais Functional Integration®.

I have used all those things, and I recommend you stay open to them. Just because it may appear that they don’t educate you somatically, does not mean they cannot help you. I have seen people who suffered needlessly for years, while pursuing alternative approaches, when an MD or chiropractor or physical therapist could have quickly resolved their problem. Most of those professionals are very good at what they do, and they understand the modern need to fix the problem so you can get on with your busy life. 

When, rarely, my neck goes “out” I will see a chiropractor.  I know lots of Feldenkrais® Practitioners who do that – and others who wouldn’t dream of it.  Why should we suffer? But, since learning Feldenkrais®, I don’t go very often, and I even know, most of the time, exactly why I got into trouble.

Many of those professionals, MDs and DCs and DOs and PTs are very intuitive and accurate at giving you just the missing piece that will resolve your issue totally. They have years of experience with lots of people, and they often develop a sixth sense about what works.  Don’t minimize that!   My only point is that the somatic side is a wonderful supplement to all that.  It takes time, an open mind and commitment to pursue somatic education for neck pain, and it is certainly not for everyone.


If your neck pain has been unrelenting, you’ve tried everything else, and maybe you have even given up hope, this website is for you; there is always hope, and in the somatic arena, stories abound about Feldenkrais® helping tremendously when nothing did. Take hope!  It was that way for me. Until then I was unwilling to investigate somatic education.  I thought it was too gentle for my serious trouble! I was sure I needed lots of very painful deep tissue work to cure my pain, since the pain was so bad. I was wrong. What I needed was the most gentle of all approaches – The Feldenkrais Method®.  Life had to force it upon me, so to speak. All other doors were slammed shut – the only moments of pain relief I found were from The Alexander Technique and The Feldenkrais Method®.

This is not the space to discuss the difference between The Alexander Technique and The Feldenkrais Method®. I love them both; both helped me when I badly needed help; neither one is better or worse than the other, there are wonderfully effective practitioners in both. They are both methods of somatic education. I think either one is a good supplement to the other. Because my training has been in The Feldenkrais Method®, I am slanted in that direction.  Feldenkrais is very global, basic and open, exploratory – there are no standards, nothing you need to continue to practice or implement. It is learning, pure and simple, and what you learn, you keep – because it changes you. That is my opinion as to how the two differ; although I am sure an Alexander teacher would have more to say!

 

In summary, what you’ll find here in this website is a very hopeful and unexpected resource for addressing chronic neck pain.  Unfortunately, you won’t find here easy or quick solutions. It is going to take a little patience and study and mentoring from those who know more than you do.  

Please, starting this very moment, begin to realistically consider that your habits are involved in continually creating your pain. The question becomes how best to change those habits of posture and movement and the attitudes that perpetuate them. The website will give you many perspectives and ways to do that.

You’ll need to get involved in a kind of work that does not work directly with trying to fix neck pain. Can you imagine what such a work would look like? When we try to fix a problem, we give the problem more reality. That’s a catch 22.

As a baby we constructed our self-image, movement, posture, while doing what babies do.  The play, they roll around on the floor, they explore, they crawl and fall and stand and run and dance. What would it look like, if an adult tried to reproduce that learning environment? Wouldn’t it be awesome to learn like a baby does? We do that in Feldenkrais. Everything we learn is supposed to be done in that way.

I am hoping, as an adult with chronic neck pain, that you find yourself more interested in exploration and education than therapy. You’d begin to appreciate the need to be gentle, go slow, be curious, just like a baby. You’ll have to endure your pain for awhile. It WILL start to recede as you persist in this approach. You need to discover this for yourself. You will discover that any type of force to correct the body – including exercise, intervention, braces, manipulation, surgeries – do not teach you anything new, nor do they change entrenched habits. So you need to give those things less importance.

You’ll need to slow down and give up the idea of accomplishment.  You are encouraged to do all these things when you explore this website. 

© Copyright 2015 Steve Hamlin  www.mybodycanlearn.com