6 reasons you may try Feldenkrais for hypermobility
Jodie Krantz, Physiotherapist (+ Clinical Pilates & Feldenkrais Teacher) with over 25 years experience working with people who have chronic pain shares 6 reasons you may try Feldenkrais for hypermobility.
Many of my past and present clients have come to see me with Joint Hypermobility (JH). This condition is often with associated chronic pain from the joints, tendons, ligaments, muscles and discs (Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders, The Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes). I soon realised that less than half had had their condition diagnosed or understood by the many health professions they had seen. Many did not even know themselves that they were super-flexible. They actually felt stiff even though they had a large range of movement. The reason for this is probably that some muscles groups had become extremely tight, perhaps as the body’s attempt to stabilise the joints and protect from further injury. (Unfortunately, tightness and strength are not the same things, and tight muscles may really be weak.)
People with Joint Hypermobility are often encouraged to keep active to maintain their fitness and muscle strength. This is good in theory. However, recurrent injuries can plague people with Joint Hypermobility; recovery may be slower than for other people and many forms of exercise simply aggravate the pain.
One of the reasons is that individuals with JH usually have reduced proprioception – the ability to sense the position of their joints. Some people with Joint Hypermobility respond remarkably well to Clinical Pilates with a Physiotherapist. Others find that they cannot tolerate even this gentle form of strengthening. This is where Feldenkrais can be especially helpful.
The Feldenkrais Method is based on the work of Moshe Feldenkrais. It’s a way of improving the functioning of your brain and nervous system to free yourself from habits which limit or trouble you, habits such as inefficient ways of sitting, walking, bending or lifting for example. You learn to reduce effort, resulting in smooth, efficient, well-coordinated actions, reduced muscular effort and relief of pain and tension.
Instead of showing you a ‘correct’ way to move, in Feldenkrais, you are guided through movement sequences that help you sense your existing habits more clearly. You then explore a wide variety of new movement options so that you will have more choices. Feldenkrais is not about flexible bodies; it’s about flexible brains. Read more about Feldenkrais here.
Because most movements are extremely gentle, and the focus is on becoming more aware of your body, Feldenkrais can be a safe way to begin your journey back to greater ease and comfort. One-to-one sessions can progress to classes. You gradually learn to self-manage through better understanding your own body, and how to avoid various pitfalls that can lead to injury.
Better educated about your body, you develop an internal barometer of what is right for you. You get better at sensing and knowing when something you are doing will result in pain later, so you stop before you cause yourself an injury. Instead of giving up on a difficult activity, you find a different way to perform the same action. You can also apply your new knowledge and understanding to any movement or exercise in the future.
Over the years, I have seen many people with severe pain and movement difficulties turn their lives around using Feldenkrais, including clients diagnosed with Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders. You often need to be patient as the changes don’t occur instantly. One client with HSD had not experienced even one minute without pain for over 20 years. He attended individual Feldenkrais lessons with me for three months before he experienced his first 2 hours of being pain-free. The pain-free periods gradually got longer and more frequent. After one year he was pain-free most of the time. When he experiences pain now, he knows how to find his way out of it again using the Feldenkrais Method. He no longer needs to attend for treatment.
These types of stories lead me to share with you six reasons why the Feldenkrais Method and is so suitable for many people with Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders:1. Encouragement – a sense of relaxation and wellbeing is often experienced from the very first time you do a movement lesson, and the enjoyment makes you want to continue 2. Safety – the slow, mindful movements help avoid flare-ups 3. Proprioception – you develop a deeper awareness of the sensations coming from your joints muscles and bones – as Moshe Feldenkrais said ‘When you know what you’re doing you can do what you want. 4. Adaptability – each person is unique and different, and the exercises are easily adapted to your particular situation and needs 5. Prevention – you become more sensitively tuned into your body so that you realise more quickly when you are doing something that will end in pain later 6. Autonomy – you can learn to do Feldenkrais for yourself, reducing the need for hands-on treatment
No matter what your pain is like, how long you’ve had it, or how severe it is, almost everyone can improve their pain by improving their movement. This is a learning process which includes your whole body and your mind, not just the parts of you that hurt. And like many of my clients, you might be surprised to discover that you enjoy the process so much that you want to continue practising it for life!
Jodie Krantz, Physiotherapist, Clinical Pilates & Feldenkrais Teacher
Perth, Western Australia
Have you tried Feldenkrais? What was your experience like? Share it with us!