True Stories

True Stories from Steve's Practice

In my practice, I have seen clients of all ages and walks of life who have experienced somatic healing. So many experiences, repeated countless times, have confirmed my belief that most of our pain-troubles come from what we are doing, and how we are doing it. And what needs 'fixing'                is not our body, but our habits. Here are some stories from my practice:

A Computer Programmer - Pain Everywhere in Her Body

She loved body-surfing, and didn't want to give it up. Is it aging? she asked. I said no, it's from how you are using your body; it's probably from your inverted ankles – your balance is compromised.

After one hour, working to restore ankle mobility, her pain was gone. I taught her exercises to keep the pain away. Years later, she came with disabling back pain, after moving. I helped her out of pain, and taught her how to lift: as you bend your knees let your butt stick out behind, don't tuck your tailbone!

Years later, she told me: Steve, I just moved again. No back pain! I do it like you showed me. Thank you!

Car Mechanic's Whole-Body Lock-Down – He Had to Shuffle in the Door

I wondered - what can I do? A semi-pro soccer player, he was supremely fit. 

Nothing moved, anywhere I touched hurt.  I began working by giving traction to (pulling) his head. It was the only thing I could even imagine being comfortable (in my own body) doing. After 10 minutes he was out of pain, fully normal. That's all I did. Speaking on a hunch, I said – as you work on cars, keep your lumbar curve, stick out your butt. Use a stool! No more hunching over, tailbone tucked!

Three years later, he profusely thanked me: 

I've taught that to all my mechanic friends, and their back pain has all gone away too.

Mrs. D's Chronic Dowager's Hump Pain

Moving slowly, like any 85 year-old, she was politely skeptical that dowager's hump is not only about osteoporosis; but also from movement habits of a lifetime. After a few lessons she said: Steve, my pain is gone - you have given my life back. 

Leaning against the wall takes away my pain, every time - I'm writing a book about it!

Her dowager's hump - still there – not enough sessions to make a real impact. Except – no pain.

The 96 Year Old Man, Very Stooped After a Bad Fall

This client was given to me by a PT who told me progress is slow, don't expect much – he's trying his best. 

They were strengthening his back and neck so he could stand taller. Instead, we worked his ankles, and also did eyes shut balance work, to reduce visual dominance, and help him trust his feet and ankles. 

His stooped posture was from fear of falling and resultant tight ankles, not a weak back.

Soon, he was able to walk fully erect, while using a walker, or not.

Hip Replacement for a Thirty-Eight Year-Old Woman

We worked for 2 years, intensively, to rehabilitate her painful right hip. She knew she needed hip replacement surgery, but insisted on trying everything natural first. Each week, she got temporary relief – maybe 3 days less pain. She learned many strategies to minimize her pain, and enjoyed her sessions, even though the pain never quite went away. She finally had to have her surgery – after all, it was 'bone on bone' – and it went very well; the outcome was perfect. Now she is completely out of pain. My mentor had taught me that Feldenkrais® work before a surgery is perhaps more important than Feldenkrais® work after a surgery. 

'It makes the job of the surgeon easier, the muscles don't fight him, the body is less compressed – more open - and the recovery process is so much easier.’

Sharp Shoulder Pain in a Young Man Whenever He Lifted His Arm Up to the Side

I showed him how to lift his arm overhead without pain (keeping the hand midline) and many other strategies to help his shoulders (see my Blog on shoulders for more on this). Nonetheless, I insisted that he get an MRI and if it was a torn rotator cuff (it was) to consider surgery. 

Feldenkrais® will both help prepare, and speed recovery.

Even a minor tear in a shoulder muscle will not easily heal (as a cut anywhere else in the body would do) – because the weight of the arms, along with arm movements, keeps pulling it open. To put the shoulder in a sling can cause shoulder lock-down (even adhesive capsulitis) – so surgery, or other means such as taping  (some specially trained specialists can do this) needs to be considered. Otherwise, eventually the body will repair the tear with scar tissue, which can cause its own set of problems. 

Severe Astigmatism Left Eye – Gone From One Moment to the Next

Her trouble – so recent, from a bad fall – impressed me as nothing serious. Optometrists could not remove the blur from her left eye - she was concerned. After 10 minutes of Feldenkrais® eye work, she blinked, as if startled, and said – I don't believe this. My blur is gone. What just happened? What did you do? How is it possible?

Businessman With Extreme Stooped Posture

His persistent questions – even demands – concerned how long it would take to straighten his posture. Speaking my truth, I said it will take 6 years, twice a week.

He was not pleased: But can't you do it more quickly? No, it would take 6 years. You're an extreme case.

I helped his pain, he paid me generously, but he never came back. Maybe he felt I was after his money. I saw him ten years later – more stooped than ever.

Severe Ongoing Back Pain in a 17 Year-Old Student – Interferes With His Studies

High expectations, along with stiff sitting posture, was what impressed me. To him, concentration meant: rigid pelvis, stiff spine, tense neck, hard-focused eyes.

He was trying so hard to be the best student possible. We never did table work. We explored how to sit without tensing the back, how to relax/stretch the back by leaning down in a chair, how to release lumbar compression, how to release eyestrain, and more. I showed him how unresponsive his pelvis was - we did a little martial-arts style game in sitting, where I pretended to attack him with a foam-roller 'sword' and he was to defend himself.  All his movements came from his upper torso, his pelvis remained frozen.  I said, really, I have 80 year old clients, with a pelvis more dynamic. At age 17 you have no excuse – isn't there some kind of sports activity that you enjoy doing? 

We explored ways to initiate movement from his pelvis, and he seemed better after the hour. He was pleased to have found a new way to look at his pain, although he may have been a little peeved at my bluntness. My expectation is that our session will have an ongoing effect, long term.


A Long-Time Meditator with Neck Pain, Back Pain & Shooting Pains Down Both Arms

His problem was quickly discovered. He was meditating – with great determination for many years - with chin too high. This created compression down his spine and neck. To meditate he thought he was lifting his gaze above the horizon, while concentrating on the spiritual eye between the eyebrows. He was not. I said: look, raise your eyes, not your chin! Keep your chin level, that's essentialthen look up, at a point about 18' in front of you, just above the horizon. Don't strain or try to be cross-eyed! It is mainly the attention, not so much the poor eyeballs that have to focus on the point between the eyebrows.  Meditators need someone else to tell them if their chin is truly level, it is too hard to tell by yourself. It is far too important to leave it to chance. It takes a trained eye. Even a chin ¼ inch too high can have devastating effect. That's why I am here. I've studied this for many years. I can tell at a glance whether a chin is truly level, or not. 

At first: eyestrain - he had been 'cheating' all those years. Even his cranial bones were now configured to facilitate a downward, rather than an upward, gaze. Anybody who looks down all day at a desk, or a computer monitor can have the same problem. (I think this is quite common – the eyeball muscles are 100 times stronger than they need to be to just move the eyeballs. They can strongly affect the cranial bones, especially the delicate sphenoid). He had thought he was looking up, but really, only his chin was 'up'. I showed him how to float down his chin to level by relaxing the back of his neck as he imagined growing taller, using no effort, which decompressed his spine. His pain - fully gone in three sessions. He was most appreciative, since other treatments had failed. Yet he was confounded for the many years of meditating looking down into the subconscious instead of up into the superconscious. 'Basically I wasted my time, didn't I?' He said. I did not tell him that it will take months of patient work with his eyes to be comfortable looking up, with chin level, but he will discover that on his own, I am sure. 

Yoga Teacher, Disabled by Severe Neck Pain from a Car Accident

In conversation, he actively gestured with his head. Every phrase - a jerky head movement was attached. So many do this! As body language, it is the exact opposite of poise and self-confidence. Even listening, he'd nod his head, and crane it slightly forward, as if to assure me he was with me. I said: look, your head is as heavy as a bowling ball. Gesture with your hands and eyes! Not your head! Watch any Italian! Your neck muscles have to grip tightly for your head to do that! That means tremendous neck compression. No wonder you have neck pain! Say often to yourself 'quiet neck.'

We spent time in conversation while he rigidly kept his head absolutely still. It felt strange! He had had no idea what he had been doing. Other therapists had not seen it. I said: For now, artificially keep your head still; in a short time you'll learn to do it just by relaxing the neck – no effort. Your whole life will get better.

This made a huge improvement – within two weeks he could work full time again, travel without pain, and more. He was most grateful, since other types of therapy had not been working.

Post Open-Heart Surgery Patient with Severe Joint Pain – Hips and Shoulders

The surgery, and the resultant scars, let his 'soft underbelly' over contracted, guarded. This tightness was interfering with normal joint mechanics. We worked gently, slowly to restore normal breath movement, doing nothing with hips or shoulder. Unfortunately, his insurance ran out, and he had to discontinue. Some progress, yes; full resolution, no.

Chronic Hip Pain, Fifty-Seven Year-Old Woman

Nothing else had helped - her face reflected her distress and pain. She had done an MRI and was told that eventually she might need a surgery, but not yet. Encouraged, I felt her style of stiff legged standing, and over-striding while walking was creating some of her trouble. She learned how to stand, shifting weight slowly side-to-side, while softening (slightly bending) the weight bearing leg only and at the exact moment it 'took weight.’  She learned quickly – and took it into walking. Then she learned to slowly walk while sensing the exact moments when a foot takes weight, and not the moments of placing of a foot in front. This quickly reduced her tendency to over-stride, which was creating shearing forces in her ankles, knees and hips. She was delighted - her pain, she told me, was almost gone – in just 20 minutes. She had worked for years with other kinds of therapies and not gotten such relief.

Full-Extension Whiplash, Scoliosis, Shoulder, Back  & Never-Ending Neck Pain

He had endured too much pain, too long – including two adhesive capsulitis shoulders after the whiplash, a roll-over car accident, and numerous bicycle and skiing falls – that he seemed embittered with Life. He stubbornly refused to take any pain medications. He stubbornly refused to stop long-distance running, even when he knew it aggravated his neck pain and severe scoliosis.  He tried everything. He found that only by involvement with the Feldenkrais work was he able to minimize his pain. He was a hard case.

He had to get smarter, quick, about a lot of things! His neck, with so many torn ligaments and tendons,  was so unstable, that only getting really smart about organizing the whole body to allow for an elegantly balanced head would help him.  He was extremely fortunate to connect locally with an accomplished, patient and perceptive Feldenkrais® mentor - Pauline Sugine, Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner. Rather than remain embittered, he resolved to learn Feldenkrais®and share freely with others as Pauline had shared with him. With Pauline's persistent encouragement and help he got into a four-year Feldenkrais® training, now has a successful practice and remains pain free, even comfortable most of the time. 

In case you did not guess, that's me. If you want to know all the many things I've had to learn to stay out of pain, explore my web site, I've tried to share everything.

If you have a Feldenkrais® story you would like to share, please email Steve.

© Copyright 2015 Steve Hamlin