Movement therapy

Movement therapy uses body movement to affect physiological functioning. It includes muscle and tissue manipulation, education and awareness, breathing and emotional expression, and specific movement patterns. Movement therapy is used to enhance an individual's mind/body awareness and promote a healthier lifestyle.

Movement therapies work on the premise that by repatterning muscle relationships, one can overcome discomfort and experience a heightened sense of the body and its relationship to the environment. Most therapies were developed by individuals who sought relief from chronic pain or saw others who needed therapeutic relief. Neuromuscular reeducation is integral to the process of movement therapy. Some therapies involve deep muscle massage which acts as a firststep in releasing tension. The field of movement therapy can be broken down into specific theories and techniques.

Aston patterning is a deep muscle manipulation technique used in conjunctionwith neuromuscular reeducation. It is particularly beneficial for individualswith chronic pain such as tennis elbow and for people with postural problems. It differs from other techniques in that the patient receives long term relief. Reeducation is essential to the technique, for one must consciously change the movement patterns that caused the pain.

The Alexander technique was developed by F. Mathias Alexander, an Australianactor who suffered severe vocal difficulties and studied his own habits of movement to determine what might be causing them. He discovered a habit of tensing his neck muscles with the intake of each breath that resulted in distortion of the head-neck-spine relationship. He named this head-neck-spine relationship the "primary control" and promoted a system of movement reeducation tobring increased awareness of these anatomical relationships. This technique results in a sense of kinesthetic lightness where thinking becomes clearer, sensations livelier, and movement more pleasurable.

The Feldenkrais method deals with structural integration of the mind and thebody using movement training, gentle touch, and verbal dialogue. Moshe Feldenkrais was a physicist who suffered a sports related injury which drove him toexplore his own movement patterns. He succeeded in overcoming his handicap,and in the process he developed sequences of movements designed to replace old negative habits with new structurally integrated ones. He developed two approaches: awareness through movement, which uses group sessions, and functional integration, which specializes in individualized gentle touch. Results include improved posture, better flexibility, coordination, and less pain and tension.

Hellerwork combines deep tissue massage, guided verbal dialogue, and movementeducation. The purpose is to structurally realign the body, release tension,and enhance mind/body awareness. The technique involves deep massage along with dialogue on how to move properly and how to change habits and lifestyle in order to reduce tension. Results are improved posture, relief of common aches and pains, and increased awareness of emotional problems contributing to physical disabilities.

The Pilates method is a system of physical conditioning and rehabilitation. Pilates works from the inside out, beginning with pelvic stabilization, intense concentration, patience, body alignment, breathing, and intelligence. Joseph Pilates was a gymnast and bodybuilder born in 1880. During World War I, hedevised a series of exercises to aid rehabilitation of wounded soldiers usingsprings attached to a hospital bed. He moved to New York City in 1923 and began to use the wooden bed, now called the universal reformer, to reconditiondancers and athletes. Pilates later added other apparatus to his system, suchas the chair, the trapeze table, and the barrel, as well as an extensive series of mat exercises. Deep breathing and abdominal support are important ingredients in the technique. Results are strength, control, lengthening throughthe spine, and correction of imbalance and faulty neuromuscular patterning.

Trager work is a method of gentle, rhythmical touch combined with movement reeducation. As the individual lies on a table, a certified practitioner uses gentle, non-intrusive touch to loosen muscles and joints. These gentle movements trigger sensory motor feedback between the mind and body, which in turn produces psychophysical integration. After the manipulation session, the patient is introduced to a series of movements to maintain a sense of lightness andawareness called mentastics. Trager work is beneficial for severe neuromuscular disturbances and produces increased body awareness.

Movement therapy has proven beneficial for individuals who seek not only relief from chronic pain, but for those who want to enjoy movement as a part of daily life. When taught by a qualified teacher in the proper setting, there are no risks, and the patient feels a release of tension and relief from muscular pain, while experiencing a heightened awareness of his or her own body andits relationship to the environment.

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