Pain and the Brain
This week I had the opportunity to work with some women who are currently being supported by a family support and counselling service.
They meet fortnightly to support each other, and explore avenues of self-care.
These brave women have encountered a range of relationship issues, including some that have left them living with trauma, and raising families as single parents.
I was invited to facilitate an Ortho-Bionomy self-care class for the group.
This presented an opportunity for the individuals attending to focus on their body exploring positions that let them experience comfort in the physical body, and notice how that led to a wonderful sense of relaxation, further leading to an easing of their individual aches and pains.
This is the basis of Ortho-Bionomy, because we know that finding supported, comfortable ease within the body "switches on" the "rest and restore" aspect of the nervous system, while quieting the "fight or flight or freeze" aspect, triggered by trauma. This allows structural and emotion balance to arise. The women attending embraced and enjoyed the class, and left with a sense of peace, and some "tools" to help them in their day to day life.
Many doctors and psychotherapists are now acknowledging this correlation between held emotions and pain.
Dr Howard Schubiner is a clinician, author and researcher who has conducted ground-breaking research on a treatment plan that can resolve, rather than manage, chronic pain. His work is based on the understanding that chronic pain, that often has no sound medical cause, can be directly connected to past incidents or life experiences that triggered physical or emotional discomfort. The nervous system, and the pain pathways, can become sensitised and more easily triggered when emotions are held, rather than released.
Connecting the mind to the body, through methods like Ortho-Bionomy that encourage people to consciously notice and connect to their body, can be enough to inform the nervous system and reorganise the pain pathways.
Here is a link to one of his talks on this subject: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VyH1laOd2M Really exciting!
A Different Type of Touch
A client recently told me a story of how, after experiencing what we did in one of her sessions, she asked her mum to "hold her ribs." To her that's what I seemed to be doing in our treatment. She told me that it feels so good when we work there in an Ortho-Bionomy session when her ribs feel tight. She is an asthmatic. But she was disappointed that it just felt "pokey" and it hurt when her Mum did similar! She had to ask her to stop, and there was no reduction in her pain afterwards. She asked: "Why is it different when you do it?"
Right there she had acknowledged the essence of an Ortho-Bionomy session. So much happens but it's all out of sight. What are we doing in that space?
I could talk in anatomical terms, but she isn't a scientist, so here is what we spoke about....
I explained that the difference she experienced was an awareness, by people trained in Ortho-Bionomy, to hold in just the right way, by approaching at just the right pace, with just the right pressure, for just the right amount of time, with hands that are open and feeling broadly connected and supportive of the body. And then to let the client return to a resting position in a timing that matches every aspect of their being.
Anything that doesn't meet the client by way of timing, pressure, attention to the client's mood, doesn't create as useful of an environment to stimulate self-correcting receptors in the joints, muscles, and tendons. So that self correction can begin, and for change to follow. Creating pain or discomfort activates the pain receptors and they are a lot "louder" and given a lot more attention by the nervous system, than the self-corrective receptors. If the pain receptors are triggered a lot of opportunity for self correction is lost.
It just doesn't feel nice.
The Sustainability of Ortho-Bionomy
With so much at stake in bringing health back to the only world we can live on, I feel really passionate about the way Ortho-Bionomy principles and techniques provide a sustainable method of treatment. Just a few examples off the top of my head:
* There are no products required in providing an Ortho-Bionomy treatment, so there are no non-biodegradable waste products.
* Ortho-Bionomy uses the naturally correcting biological processes within our own nervous system......limitless and without harmful side effects!
* Ortho-Bionomy is calming and balancing on the nervous system so recipients tread so much more lightly on the earth after a treatment practice.
* Working with the nervous system, the body's control centre, is really efficient and effective. So much less need for pharmaceuticals and less impact of their toxic by-products on the atmosphere and earth's water table.
* With less pain, improved nervous system function and clear thinking, perhaps more tolerance and less turmoil will prevail in local, and global, relationships.
* Demonstrating working without force, is a fabulous model for everyone to see.
The answers are within us, Ortho-Bionomy allows us clear thinking to access them.
You'll know if you've read previous blogs I have written, Ortho-Bionomy treatment is directed by a set of principles.
These principles guide the work I do, whether exploring aspects of the physical body or working to support the emotional or energetic aspects of the client.
The principles of Ortho-Bionomy are:
- Not to use force to oppose conditions occurring in the body, but rather to use techniques to allow the client to have an authentic experience of the body condition.
- To do less to allow the client's body the opportunity to do more. This allows the system to reorganise at it's own pace.
- Not to use pain to treat pain.
- To have no attachment, or agenda, towards a specific outcome. Once you think you know the answer, you will work towards it, only, limiting all the other possibilities that can arise.
These principles guide Ortho-Bionomy Practitioners in all aspects of interaction from the purely physical, to the emotional, and when working in the energetic/auric.
This might be by gently exaggerating a tension pattern in the body, or moving the body in a way that softens tight restricted areas. In this way the nervous system, always gathering information to find balance and stability, can become aware of the body's current state. From there the nervous system has a place from which to naturally find it's most most effective state, at its own pace.
In this world of "quick fix" thinking, this can feel like "taking the pressure off."
When working with a focus on the emotional or energetic aspects these principles, allow a person to have an experience of themself and their condition, in their own time and way.
This is sometimes termed "holding space," and other methods of therapy and interaction have adopted this term as well.
I'd like to talk about how significantly special holding space, using these Ortho-Bionomy principles can be, for another. I believe it is often the most significant aspect of any Ortho-Bionomy treatment.
These days there is often a real discomfort when we are in the company of someone who is suffering with physical or emotional pain, grief, sadness, emptiness, or any perceived "negative" state.
Anything less than "happy and light-hearted" is considered damaged or broken....needing to be "fixed" as soon as possible. Many modalities have this as the aim.
In Ortho-Bionomy we don't "fix." Rather we support the physical body in a way that gives it an authentic experience of itself. This allows the nervous system to clarify what the imbalance is, physical and/or emotional, and so using the naturally occuring self-corrective capacities, find the pathway to self recovery. This allows the body to find it's more permanent resource.
And so it is with emotional discomfort. Coaxing another to "cheer up," or "look at the positive side of things," or "stop feeling so sad," or even suggesting that it's ok because "it is all happening for a reason"
may seem like you are being supportive. But most often it is driven by our own discomfort in sitting with theirs. And often they feel like they are being forced emotionally, when they don't actually have a pathway
along which to make that emotional shift.
So it can be more helpful to sit with them, supporting physically or emotionally, from a place of non-judgement and quiet allowing. Listening to hear them, but not to suggest action. Doing less, to allow their system to do more. Perhaps modelling a patience and tolerant space. Not using force to treat pain. With no attachment to a specific outcome.
Holding space for them to emotionally reorganise at their own pace, in their own time.
A comment on evidence based practice Vs natural therapies.
I don't post about this much, I prefer to put my attention towards the great outcomes my work with clients can have, rather than any limitations imposed upon it.
In April 2019 many age old, very effective natural therapies will no longer be rebateable via health funds. The federal government will not only discontinue the subsidy it provided health funds so
they could do this, but the government has disallowed rebates for these services entirely. Such services include hoeopathy, naturopathy, kinesiology, bowen therapy, western herbalism, aromatherapy, alexander technique...and there are others.
Slowly, over just the last 100 years "evidence based" demand has become a requirement of "appropriate" healthcare.
Standards set to achieve "evidence based" status are difficult for natural therapies to meet in studies. Many natural therapies are qualitative, results, data and outcomes not "measurable" and "comparable" across the large sample groups required.... And studies are expensive, mostly outside the budget of natural healthcare. I suppose they could seek funding from the pharmaceutical industry. haha!
I will say Ortho-Bionomy treatment is not health fund rebateable. Our organisation is not large enough, or old enough to have that option.
I guess that means clients are not choosing it, or being driven there, by a rebate.
People choose it as therapy often because they have tried susidised or rebateable therapies to no avail, or they are reluctant to continue treating their condition with painful, forceful therapy.
Some clients can't articulate why they continue visits after their condition improves other than "I just feel better when I have regular OB."
But natural health care IS MY choice of self care. I feel for the homeopaths, bowen therapists, and kinesiologists that I choose to maintain my health. I'm not in a health fund, I prefer to spend my dollars on organic produce and the costs that I incur to follow a healthy lifestyle.
I have great faith in modern medicine to treat trauma really effectively, and feel fortunate to live in a country where I have access to free/medicare'd hospital care and subsidised GP. Definitely my first port
of call in an acute emergency. But for everything other that acute trauma I choose natural medicine/ therapy.
But many people might not choose natural treatments once rebates are removed. Cost and perceived efficacy may drive them away. That makes me sad, because these businesses that offer such great service may suffer in the short term. I hope they can hang on.
I also feel this is just the first step. They may have strong Associations with lobbying power, but remedial massage, chiropractic, osteopathy and other allied health services will probably meet the same fate in the future. Driving forces are gathering momentum.
The Australian Govt......aiming to take away choices for subsidised and rebateable health care options.
I remain curious though....without options for rebate on many natural therapies, I guess now we will know if people's choices are guided by outcomes. If there is no change, but less cost or full payment and improvement, what will people choose? Or will our community get even more unwell?
This link is a good read about the process here, and in some other places in the world:
Just the right amount of information at just the right pace.
One of the principles we are guided by in Ortho-Bionomy is to "Do less, to allow the client's body to do more for itself."
To the client it can appear practitioners of Ortho-Bionomy are doing nothing at all in a treatment. I have had people say how astounded they are at the profound outcome they notice after a treatment because "you didn't seem to be doing anything!"
Sure we move the body around, and wait for periods of time before moving on, but what are we "doing?"
The answer is LOTS! Practitioners are "tracking" responses in the client's body. Responses that convey information about what, when and how the client's body is responding to the stimulus we are giving the body, in the form of gentle movement, slight compression, traction or structural support.
In response to the stimulus given, the client's body can respond in many ways......
- It might relax such that the tissues soften, creating space that feels like the body pushes back out toward the practitioner;
- Ligaments might recoil to regain their natural tone, and that might feel to the practitioner like the tissues are moving inwards, toward the client's body;
- The client's system might shift into parasympathetic or "rest and restore," and the client might yawn, their digestive system "gurgle," tension patterns relax, or they might sigh deeply;- There might be a shift in the client's "mood" that can be observed or "palpable;"
- Or the Practitioner might feel a shift in their own state, through the connectivity we establish when we work with the client.
An Ortho-Bionomy Practitioner will pay attention for any, or all, of these responses. These are the clues that the client's body is beginning to connect with their naturally occuring self-corrective processes.
We work with the nervous system, allowing it to gain information. We support the body as it begins to re-educate. The aim is to show the body, let it receive the information it had "forgotten," perhaps due to injury, postural strain or dysfunction, and then let the body do the work it was meant to.... self-correct.
By tracking the client's responses to the information we are giving their body, we allow the right amount of information to be given to allow this re-education process, at the client's own pace, without controlling or forcing change.
By tracking we know when to allow the client's body to do it's own work, and move on to another area of the body to explore further cnnections. Every client is different, their processes unique, and by tracking we seek to
meet that for them.
It is the client's "self"-corrective process we are exploring, after all, not the "practitioner"-corrective process.
The "Follow On."
So often clients come into the clinic with aches, pains or limitations in movement. They, naturally, have an expectation that those aches or pains will lessen and that their movement will become
more fluid and free.
More often than not, over a series of treatments, we are able to find the best way to work together to awaken self corrective capacities, gently assist the body structure(bones, muscles, ligaments) to find some organisational balance, and the outcome they hoped for eventuates.
And then there's the "Follow on"......
As the great psychiatrist Milton Erickson said, "once you kick the log, the river will start flowing." No "kicking" occurs in an Ortho-Bionomy session, but for several days after an Ortho-Bionomy session the body continues to reorganise. We refer to this as the "follow on." The muscles and tissues soften. This creates space in the joints. Life sustaining fluids(blood, lymph, marrow) carrying hormones, nutrients, waste products of metabolism, are more able to flow....improving function in the body. Internal organs have more space and functionality improves.
If clients continue to visit for maintenance sessions, I often notice the "follow on" goes way beyond the body itself though. An effectively functioning body, pain and dysfunction reduced, allows the nervous system
to more easily shift from fight/flight/freeze and find balance in rest/restore/calm.
It could simply be that being in a calmer state makes one "nicer" to be around, so creates better outcomes in the world around you. It's my belief, that we are energetically connected to all life and that as the mind and body reorganise, so the world around us does, after an Ortho-Bionomy session. I've observed clients describe the way workplaces become easier, interactions more genuine, and relationships more positive after some gentle Ortho-Bionomy.
Balance is just a place we visit.
When a person is in pain, and seeking relief, there is often a LOT of focus on the painful area and fixing the structural issue.
That's understandable. The aim is to reduce the pain, and most often the expectation is that if some part of the body is not "in place" it needs to be "encouraged" to be so..... to remove the pain.
Some modalities and therapies do this with a level of force, and others are more gentle.
But I think the aspect of Ortho-Bionomy, that sets it most apart from other therapies, is that Practitioners don't have a focus on fixing the structural issue directly.
Rather we focus on exploring the most appropriate ways of informing the nervous system about how it can find structural balance.
I believe this is a more sustainable practice, because the body is not a static system. There is always a necessary level of motion in the body.....microscopic, or macroscopic. Life takes us out of structural balance with every movement. But the self-correcting capacities in the nervous system allow us to reorganise and recover, in the next moment.
The self-correcting receptors in the nervous system are naturally stimulated through movement of the body. Normal movement, in everyday tasks, is most often enough to stimulate self correction, before any chronic issues arise.
Sometimes the system becomes confused though.
Injury, postural or repetitive strain, age, or any inability to be active can all create limited movement. Thus leading to a reduced ability within the body to self-correct.
In Ortho-Bionomy we use the same natural movement of the body, something the nervous system recognises and is familiar with, to remind the system of the self-corrective process.
We support and monitor the body as this process takes place.
The nervous system generally grasps this familiar information quickly. Meaning that it can soon return to it's most effective state, and repeat that process again and again as we move in and out of balance during work and play.
Simply "fixing an imbalance" is not enduring.
But educating the body, via the nervous system, to remind it of it's natural capacity to self-correct each and every time....that's enduring.
When did we stop seeking comfort, and begin to think pain was a better option for treating pain?
I was preparing to teach a class a few days ago, and in considering how to teach my students the way we use our hands to assess structural imbalances in Ortho-Bionomy, I thought how much the Ortho-Bionomy touch is like the way we hold a newborn baby.
When a baby is held it is with soft open hands, gently molding to the shape of the baby's body. It's not a "gripping" forceful touch.
This softness gives the baby the sense of security and support, without restriction and limitation of movement.
People will often even say they notice how soft the baby's skin is, the temperature of their skin, perhaps its smoothness....that is all possible with relaxed open hands.
But it would not be possible to notice that if your hands were gripping. When we grip it becomes all about the "hold" and not about the contact and the information that contact can convey to both the giver and the receiver.
That gripped, forceful way is how many other treatments are delivered to people in pain...and often the way people expect, and even sometimes prefer, to be contacted.
The way we hold a baby is very much the way a Practitioner contacts the client's body during an Ortho-Bionomy treatment.
Broad, open, though deliberate touch gives a lot of information to the practitioner, allowing appropriate needs to be noticed, and treatment to be delivered to best meet the client's needs. And it also conveys a sense of safety and support to the client, as well as letting the client notice how their body feels.
Feeling safe and supported allows the client's nervous system to access self correcting processes in the nervous system. If a client doesn't feel safe, these processes are less accessible, if at all.
So I wonder at what life stage it begins to be "ok" to be held in an uncomfortable way?
How can something as effective as Ortho-Bionomy be so gentle?
People are often surprised how a treatment as gentle as Ortho-Bionomy, in application, can be so effective. Most Ortho-Bionomy practitioners would have been told by a client that they left their
first session feeling like the practitioner "did nothing." But, over the next day or two, big changes arose in their body!
How does that happen?
This is how I explain this circumstance to people...
We live in a society in which we are not encouraged to pay attention to how our body physically feels, as long as it serves our purposes. i.e. unless there is pain or immobility that prevents us from doing some activity. Anything less than pain, or perhaps indeed extreme pleasure, doesn't get our attention. But to keep us in balance our amazing body is constantly reorganizing as we move in and out of what is the best physical position for us. Recovering from excessive stretch and strain from our physical activity.
We sit at computers for hours on end, in positions that create postural strain; we dig ditches or lay pavers, or bricks, bent forward putting pressure on our backs for long periods of time; we use repetitive movements because we specialise in our work (and play) to such an extent that often our bodies only experience a very small range of possible movement.
Then, when we rest or sleep, the remarkable self correcting processes of our parasympathetic nervous system reorganize the tissues and joints such that we wake the next day able to do it all again.
The process is called homeostasis, well known to science in regard to biochemical pathways in the body that maintain functionality of our organ systems.
Maintaining fluid balance, salt and blood sugar regulation, hormonal balance etc. This is a process through which our bones, muscles and connective tissues find structural balance as well.
This process isn't painful or forceful. It happens "under the radar" of our awareness. It doesn't wake you up as it happens.
This is the platform into which Ortho-Bionomy gives the body information- the parasympathetic nervous system. We use methods that gently stimulate the self-corrective processes of the parasympathetic nervous system... in the joints, tendons and muscles. These processes may have become inaccessible to the nervous system through postural strain, injury, aging...
That's why Ortho-Bionomy treatment doesn't need to be painful. When you give information directly to the "control centre" it is a really efficient way to treat people. In fact, creating pain or using force will likely trigger the fight/ flight response, shifting the body away from parasympathetic and the capacity to heal.
Maintaining our upright stance is an amazing feat of structural engineering. We may think that we are standing still, or sitting still,
but what is actually occuring are a continuous series of adjustments to maintain stability.
This is necessary because there are heavier structures, on the top of the body, balanced atop the fairly narrow base of our feet.
Our bones and joints provide the capacity for us to have structure and movement, but their rigid nature doesn't provide true stability against the pulls of gravity as we move.
So it is the system of, what are often referred to as, "guy ropes" that provide the stability for us to find the balance to remain upright. This system includes the muscles, ligaments, tendons and connective tissue within the body. Under the control of the nervous system these tissues are making many adjustments each second to create balance and keep us upright so we don't just topple over.
Connective tissue is the general term for the continuum of tissue that surrounds, separates, and supports our inner body organs and tissues, connecting them to the bones and to adjacent structures. It is only in the last century that science has become interested in connective tissue. Previously, Anatomists simply removed it to study the muscles, nerves and organs within it. Connective tissue is composed of a fluid matrix, known as "ground substance," that can be more or less viscous, depending on the demands we put upon it. Protein fibres, within the ground substance, provide structure within this fluid matrix. When denser connective tissue is needed, e.g. when a wound repair is required, the ground substance produces more protein fibres to close the wound and protect the area as it heals.
It seems crazy that connective tissue historically received so little attention because without it, our internal body would have no integrity. Organs, and bones would be at the mercy of gravity.
We would not be upright beings.
Specialised connective tissues include ligaments, which connect bones to bones, and tendons which connect muscles to bone. The delicate tissues that envelope and support the brain and spinal cord, the meninges, are also a type of connective tissue. Even our bones are a mineralised form of connective tissue. The tubing around the nerves and blood vessels, and the sheets of tissue around our internal organs are also a specialised type of connective tissue called Fascia.
Fascia is amazing!
It doesn't just envelope organs, it permeates them to give containment, support and integrity to them. In the heart it provides separation to each of the chambers of the heart so they can work together, but independently.
At a cellular level, fascia forms containers for every cell, and on a multicellular level our internal body is a 3-dimensional web of fascia with compartments for all our organs and muscles.
Fascia is strong and supportive, but equally fluid and mobile. Adjacent areas of fascia form cohesive sheets to provide an internal continuum from the top of our head to the soles of our feet.
This allows tissues throughout our entire body, to be continuous. Movement and function in one area affects, via the system of fascia, any and all other areas.
Fascia provides a communication network throughout the body, distinctive from the communication and feedback of other body systems.
The ground substance has a liquid crystalline composition so it conducts bioelectric currents. Body positions that create both stretching and shortening will send currents through fascia that will signal
it to change its state. It is only in recent times that scientists have begun to understand fascia and this "intelligence."
It has been found that fascia responds to any stress upon the body, physical, environmental or psychological. Eg. Maintaining a closed or forward hunched posture will signal fascia on the front of the body to produce more fibres, in an effort to provide support that will reduce muscle exertion in an area...so poor posture becomes chronic. When the body remains in a closed postural position for extended times, overlying sheets of fascia adhere to each other, movement becoming extremely restricted. In this case, the level of adhesion that occurs is often beyond being "stretched out." Conventional bodywork therapies work with the bones or the muscles and are often ineffective at accessing the level of adhesion that can occur in the fascia.
In Ortho-Bionomy we have developed ways we to gently work with the fascial tension patterns, giving the system information about the directions of tension and adhesion, which assists the system to unwind the layers. If you have long term postural patterns Ortho-Bionomy is a gentle, supportive way to make permanent changes.
Making Permanent Change
There are two ways that people use Ortho-Bionomy (or other modalities).
One way is to have a treatment when the pain exceeds their ability to function. This might reduce the pain for a short time. But, if pain, structural imbalance and dysfunction have been a concern for a while, it is often not enough to change the underlying structural system while trying to relieve strong pain.
The second way is to have treatment to resolve the pain (often this takes from 1-3 treatments of Ortho-Bionomy) then to have a few more treatments so the practitioner can do some postural re-education work with you. The postural work will help the body re-organise around the structural changes that occur during treatment, and move forward with new, more functionally stable patterns.
Our body's natural self-correcting processes are activated through movement, and when that movement has been coming from a place of structural imbalance, the body needs some "re-education" to make the new patterns
Postural re-education is the best value body work you can get. The more aligned your skeletal system the less load there is on the muscles when you stand or move.
In Ortho-Bionomy treatment there are never any painful techniques or forced manipulations needed to change the posture because we work directly with the nervous system, making it more efficient than other forceful modalities.....no "middle man" eg. the muscles, or bones. We work with the postural patterns, instead of against them; stimulate the self corrective capacities in the joint capsule and muscle belly; and literally watch the body re-organise. Gentle for the client, and the practitioner.
A little additional postural work can make long lasting changes.
Working with Different Aspects- meeting clients where they are
Clients come to bodywork Practitioners with a variety of needs.
In Ortho-Bionomy we give information to the nervous system that supports the body, all aspects of the body, to self-regulate. This can be very helpful when the system has been physically traumatised eg. post surgically. This is because after this kind of trauma, though often life-savingly necessary, the body will be in "fight/flight and the self-regulation aspect of the nervous system is not fully available.
An example of this was a client who contacted me, a week after an emergency hysterectomy.
She was experiencing a lot of back pain. The surgeon had suggested it was quite normal, and likely referred from her abdomen. Though her surgery was a long one, her surgeon assured her that her back had not been compromised nor injured during the surgery. She wasn't able to drive or sit in the car even as a passenger, and she was a client I knew, so I was happy to visit her at home.
The beauty of Ortho-Bionomy is that we can modify how we work to specifically meet a person's needs and capacities i.e. she couldn't possibly get up on a treament table or even sit for any length of time, I also needed to be comfortable to best be "available," and her injuries were largely her internal tissues rather than her outer structures. So we worked on her spare bed, me sitting beside her with a pillow behind me for support, and she lying on her back and then on her side.
In this instance I knew that her body would be working to repair the tissues in her pelvis. The uterus(now removed) has a lot of connective tissue attachment
to the sacrum and all the other pelvic organs, and those organs now needed to reorganise without the physical support of her uterus. Pain and discomfort would certainly result from this.
Using gentle methods that give the body information about where the tissues were, and weren't, would assist the areas to reorganise and recover. Allowing her pelvis to form new realtionships with remaining organs would be a help in recovery.
For her it felt like I gently lay my hands on different parts of her pelvis, and gave some comfort. For me I noticed tissue movement patterns under my hands
and supported these until her body gave responses, via the parasympathetic nervous system, to indicate the tissues were reorganising within.
Because her body was already working hard to restore, a half an hour felt like enough time for her treatment.
She phoned the next day to say her pain had reduced by 80%.
I love this work. Less is always more, and to work with the movement patterns in the viscera( internal tissues) the same principles apply as when we work on the structure...... even though the technique is even more gentle.
Less is More, in my Practice.
As my understanding of Ortho-Bionomy deepens, I really notice I "do" such a lot less, as a Practitioner, in a treatment.
I have a sense that rather than any intensity of focus on an issue, I am more curiously exploring, gently moving the clients body this way and that. Gently awakening and informing the self corrective processes within the client's nervous system.
Considering "doing less," that old paradigm of "value for money" arises in me for the client. And yet positive outcomes arise. So value certainly!
When I sit with these thoughts, I realise I am attentive to the client, but to a much more broad version of the client.
Feeling not just the part of their body my hand supports, but the energetic vibration or charge in the room as we talk, shifts in mood, how I shift with that mood, becoming aware that releases are happening or have happened and moving onto areas I acknowledge as unrelated to the presenting issue, but simultaneously knowing that it's right to do that.
What I've come to understand is that when you tightly hold a singly focused space, with an expectation for change to happen right there, you can't be aware of all the other aspects of a person.
Holding a broad awareness feels so much more allowing for all sorts of reorganizing to arise within the client's body. Changes in the tissues of the joints, muscles, bones, fluids and the energetics of the body. All are interrelated, this "connects to that".....
I notice that I feel aware of where I am working in the client's body, but simultaneously by broadening my field of awareness, I notice connection at all levels.
Sometimes it's helpful to notice how my body feels in relationship to what may be occurring for the client.
When I do that I'm reminded of Victor Frankel's well known quote: "The interface between is where existence happens."
So I feel really in touch with the Ortho-Bionomy principle of "less is more" these days.... "doing" a lot less, and yet knowing this is simultaneously allowing the space for such a lot more to arise within the client. That is what makes Ortho-Bionomy so unique as a way of working with the body.
Having too much specific "intention" puts the nervous system "in tension," perhaps limiting possible outcomes.
The Ortho-Bionomy Difference
I have been seeing a client for her current issues for about 2 months. She visits 2-3 weekly as her schedule allows.
Through an initial impact injury, she developed a condition that resulted in consultation with her GP and subsequently being under the combined care of an orthopaedic surgeon, a hematologist, and a physiotherapist. Surgery, after other issues subside, is ahead.
My client is a health professional and works with her hands, and has been unable to work for 4 months.
Currently she has a referral to a rheumatologist because, though having certainty about some of her issues through medical imaging and blood testing, none of the medical specialists are really sure why a debilitating degree of pain has developed in certain joints.
Each specialist focuses on their area of expertise...the blood, the joints, the muscles.
At our last session she commented that the other treatments are all quite painful in delivery, and all leave her with more pain. But that in our treatments together, I rarely cause any discomfort and afterwards she feels relief for a few days, and very relaxed.
I thought about this remark, and compared what we do in Ortho-Bionomy to the other very qualified practitioners.
In contrast to the other specialists, my specialty area was "her."
Her condition was unique each time she came to my clinic, and so my practice in Ortho-Bionomy, checking in with her and meeting her where it seemed most effective, was also unique.
Letting her body's responses be the guide.
Also not being attached to specific outcomes, so as not to limit the possibilities that could arise through the treatment.
Sometimes that would mean I gave attention to the bones, sometimes muscles, lymph, and sometimes in the energetics and emotions. At her last visit we used Ortho-Bionomy principles to explore her biome...her "microbial signature." Each time giving her body information about its current state, to assist reorganization and recovery.
Rather than working "on" I was working "with" her body and all its aspects. Quite special work we do in Ortho-Bionomy really, and seemingly limitless.
How Ortho-Bionomy can assist trauma recovery
In Bessel Van Der Kolk's book "The Body Keeps the Score," he outlines his decades of research, and findings, as a psychologist working with trauma and PTSD patients.
Explaining that to access full recovery it is most effective for a somatic (body focused, as distinct from the purely psychological) approach to be incorporated:
"The act of telling the story doesn't necessarily alter the automatic physical and hormonal responses of bodies that remain in hypervigilant, prepared to be assaulted or violated at any time. For real change to take place, the body needs to learn that the danger had passed and to live in the reality of the present. Our search to understand trauma had led us to think differently not only about the structure of the mind but also about the processes by which it heals."
There are several reasons Ortho-Bionomy can be a useful treatment, along with regular counselling with a qualified counselling professional, for people existing with a background of emotional or physical trauma:
In an Ortho-Bionomy session clients remain clothed and the practitioner interacts with the body's natural self-corrective processes, located within the nervous system through gentle, directed movements.
Treatment actually stimulates the parasympathetic, or "rest and restore", component of the autonomic nervous system and consequently balances, or rests down, the "fight or flight" component.
This means that a sense of relaxation can develop for the client throughout the treatment.
During the treatment the Practitioner supports the client's body in a safe, open handed, and deliberate way as they move the client's body into release positions specific to the client's structural needs. This gives the client a physical opportunity to experience being contacted in a safe, supported way. Allowing people existing with trauma to experience, and begin to re-learn, there can be safe contact. The capacity to seek, feel, and learn to respond to safe, loving contact is a neural pathway within our brains and generally begins to develop in infancy through our parents safe touch. When people have experienced trauma, that pathway can become inaccessible as all roads lead to self preservation and a state of hypervigilance and constant "fight or flight" prevails. Modern science is now acknowledging this process can recover through safe, supported embodied experiences.
In cases of trauma, when certain audio, visual or sensory triggers readily cause a "fight flight" response, orientation of space and time can be compromised. To a trauma survivor it can suddenly seem they have transported back in time. In Ortho-Bionomy we might use a method of isometrics to help the client explore and identify patterns of joint movement that exist in their body. This allows clients to orientate their position in space and time.
Within the nervous system there is a relationship between the physical and mental/emotional systems. Just as you might feel it as tension, tightness or nausea in your body physically when you are stressed, science now understands that we also hold emotions we don't always want to experience, in the physical body as tension or sometimes pain. Mostly we aren't aware of this.
In an Ortho-Bionomy treatment, the Practitioner assists the client to mindfully notice what is happening in their body. As the body's structure is supported to gently realign, building this awareness between mind and body can allow these held emotions to release an pain can resolve.
Ortho-Bionomy can provide a physical aspect to trauma management, to support the emotional counselling a client may be having with their health professional.
A complimentary stress management tool for you:
The stress response occurs in our body as the adrenal glands release adrenaline, then cortisole, into the blood stream to trigger the very useful fight or flight response. That's meant to happen for a short while, prepare us to "deal", then dissipate and allow the system to return to neutrality. Sometimes whatever is causing the stress can be constant and cortisole continues to be released........maintaining the stress response. Unpleasant and exhausting!
The adrenal glands are located very close to the diaphragm muscle( important to our breathing) and cause it to hold a contraction that can exacerbate the problem by creating an environment that only allows shallow breathing. ......also stressful to the body!
If you can't make it in for an Ortho-Bionomy treament
try this neat trick to break the cycle a little and relax the nervous sytem:
Sit or lie comfortably and quietly
Just tune in to your breathing, rest your hands on your lower ribs, and notice the rib cage rise and fall as you breathe. Stay with me, it will get more interesting 😊.........
On an outward breath, when you think you've exhaled as far as you usually do, exhale a little more.....and then a little more. Essentially exaggerate the outbreath.
Then inhale, and let the breathe just rush in as fast and full as it wants
Breathe in and out at your normal pace for 3 or 4 breaths.
When you feel ready exaggerate the the outbreath once again. Keping hands broad, not pokey, you can gently slightly push the lower ribs towards the back if you like. That will create a further exaggeration.
But only do this gently
Repeat this process for 6 cycles
Repeat as necessary
This method uses an Ortho-Bionomy principle referred to as "exaggerating what is."
In this case exaggerating the diaphragm tightness, which triggers the self corrective response in the nervous system, to relax the muscle. In this case allowing more air to inhale as well.
If you can make it in for a treatment, Ortho-Bionomy can greatly assist the nervous system to rest down.
Playing with the Principles of Ortho- Bionomy
No Attachment to a Specific Outcome:
In an Ortho-Bionomy treatment it is more effective to be mindful of how limiting to the client an anticipated outcome may be. It will very likely limit the practitioner’s focus, and also limit the information a broader exploration would give the client’s system. Sometimes an area of the body doesn’t have the capacity to change at the time of the session. It can mean that something else needs to change, to allow the area to release.
A client might present with a sore, stiff neck. Naturally the practitioner would want to ease pain in the neck. But on working with the neck for a while there might not be noticeable change. Rather than persisting, and possibly overworking the neck, it might be more useful for the practitioner to look further afield. The Practitioner might ask: "Where can the body respond?" Neck and shoulder issues are often strongly influenced by the pelvis and lumbar spine shape. Exploring patterns and releases there may allow space for changes to occur further up the spine. So it is more effective to be open in focus.
This translates into our personal posture and stability as well. A broader focus of all parts of the body, rather than just what is directly at the front of the body, benefits our structure and in turn all our body's functions.
A way to play with this principle:
A simple example for me is the yogic pose, half moon pose. It's a pose that requires stabilising on one foot and leg, as you bend sideways and bring the other leg, and upper body, at right angles to the stabilising leg. If all my focus is on the stabilising foot, I often fall over. But when I take my focus more broadly and have a broader sense of the space behind my back, and through my shoulders at the same time as giving the stabilising leg and foot attention, I achieve a stable pose.This is great in any activity, walking, running, climbing because a broader focus will give you more openness, stability and better function in all body systems.
Give it a try…...from time to time become aware of the space around the sides and the back of your body, and notice how different it feels.
This open focus, and non attachment to specific outcomes provides benefits in the greater scheme of life too.
It's great to have goals in life, to work towards. But sometimes, becoming too focused on a particular outcome exclusive to all else, might actually limit achieving the goal in the fullest of ways. Because you might not notice the dalliances along the way that would bring much more to your life. Try holding a space for the goal, with a broader mindset so as to notice other opportunities along the way. The goal may even modify as you go, or become something different, or become a series of really uniquely wonderful independent outcomes. Living with the principle of having no attachment to outcomes, allows space for EVERYTHING. One can become limitless.
Playing with the Principles of Ortho- Bionomy
No pain to release pain:
In Ortho-Bionomy we look for what feels more comfortable, rather than creating more pain, for the following reasons:
The position of comfort gives us some idea of the patterns of contraction in the client's body. For example, if the right side of the body is contracted more than the left, there will be less pain, and the client will feel more comfortable, bending to the right. That's what we would do in an Ortho-Bionomy treatment.
The pain receptors are much ‘louder’ than the self corrective or proprioceptive receptors. For that reason the nervous system pays them a lot more attention. So in order to get the most efficient communication with the brainstem, it is important to minimise pain so that the proprioceptive receptors, and the information they bring, can be “heard.” .
When a person is made more comfortable they relax. When the body relaxes things can change quicker throughout the whole system. This increases the effectiveness of the treatment and reduces the chance of pain after the session. This doesn't mean there is no pain at all, sometimes clients have conditions that even hurt when they breathe so there is no way around it, but our aim is to find more comfort or better movement capacity for all of the above reasons. It simply instinctive for people to want to give comfort in times of pain. Mums instinctively “kiss the hurt better.” You often want to give a hug to a friend in emotional pain or suffering. When someone falls, it is a human urge to offer support or help.
A way to play with this principle:
As well as in a treatment, this is also an effective way to interact with situations (or sometimes people) that create emotional pain in us.
Often an unkind act or thoughtless comment will cause emotional pain that will make us want to give pain right back to that person. In return they may do the same, and before you know it there is an ongoing action of retaliation and attack. Sounds like any war humanity has ever endured!
Treating pain with pain, will never result in comfort, it becomes all about the pain.
So how might you stop treating this type of emotional pain with pain? What would be a more effective treatment? Each case will be different..........
Sometimes a smile, a nod, a look of understanding, a kind word of understanding, speaking softly rather than shouting (especially if they shout) deflecting, ignoring, walking away, simply holding an awareness and practice of NOT RESPONDING to pain/negativity with pain.
There is also the chance that you might then model behaviour that will be followed. Pretty soon the pain pattern can dissipate.
Historically this has been a way to change thinking, and suppression, in a culture. John Lennon, Gandi, meeting pain or aggression with calm and peace. The aggressor has no frame of reference, needs to rethink themselves, can’t fight when there is no attack. I do believe it is our humanity’s way forward.
Playing with the Principles of Ortho-Bionomy
Less is more:
In Ortho-Bionomy our aim, when working with a client, is to do less to initiate self-corrective reflexes. This is so we allow the client can do more for themselves. Engaging the self-corrective processes of the client’s body is the most efficient way to change the system. By working with the nervous system, information can be supplied to the body in its own language, and then the nervous system can follow on with the corrective processes. The nervous system can however, be overwhelmed by too much information, which can result in confusion. There is a point where the body has had enough and needs to rest to integrate. When the nervous system is overstimulated the body will start to resist and overwork symptoms like aching and pain can result. So it is really important to notice when the body has “had enough.” In an Ortho-Bionomy treatment Practitioners track the body's releases, and become aware when the nervous system stops responding in a variety of ways. This principle of “less is more” applies beyond the bodywork though. It's a valuable tool to notice when we are overdoing anything. Most people have experienced overdoing in exercise, eating, drinking alcohol, sleeping, etc.I don't need to discuss consequences there.
A way to play with this principle:
Less is more is also a useful principle to consider when we are interacting with others. In human relationships each person brings something to every interaction in the relationship. When one person constantly brings more, expecting more to “happen” or a “better outcome” there can be disappointment when nothing happens, or the outcome isn't better. You could consider the relationship to be the body, and the people in it to be body parts. The relationship may be feeling overworked, confused and unable to integrate the overdoing! The people in the confused relationship can't play in harmony….. Sometimes frustration will arise….maybe blaming…….then surprise on the part of the other(s) in the relationship….. If this seems to be arising, maybe that's a perfect time to begin to apply the “less is more” principle. Check in with yourself and notice what motivates you in any interaction. If you notice yourself thinking “this doesn't seem to be working, I'll be more accommodating…... use more effort to please….. spend more money on them……. give more of myself in whatever way I already have been……..there must be more I can do” it could be a great time to give “less is more” a try instead. More of something that's not working possibly isn't the answer. So try doing less. Play with doing less, and just being with your feelings and what you've already done, and allow the relationship to evolve around that. See what arises, and how this gives space for the other(s) in the interaction to be a little “more,” and maybe have a chance to bring more to the interaction.
If we universally played with “less is more” each human might have the opportunity to develop to their full potential. Feel good about themselves, with clarity in their relationships. I wonder if the planet would benefit from a humanity of people all able to be in their full potential? Interested in playing with “less is more?”
Playing with the Principles of Ortho-Bionomy
Exaggeration of the preferred position:
In Ortho-Bionomy the way we assist the body to self-correct is to exaggerate what the body is currently doing, rather than trying to force sudden change upon it. Often that will just meet with resistance. If a muscle is tight or contracted, we explore ways that passively shorten the muscle further, exaggerate the contracted state, and support the muscle in that position. This will generally feel really comfortable for a client. This triggers the proprioceptive/self-correcting reflexes in the muscle belly, tendons, or nearby joint capsule, allowing the muscle contraction to release and the muscle to lengthen. Try this for yourself by lying on the floor and slowly rotating your head to the left and then the right. Which way does it prefer or rotate to more easily? Turn to the preferred side and place one hand on the upper side of your face to support the position, so your neck muscles are not engaged and can relax into the position. Try this on tight hamstrings (the muscles at the back of your thighs). If you have tight hamstrings, exaggerate their shortness by lying on your tummy for a while with your knees bent and feet resting on a chair or the couch. Recheck the tightness after a while. Any tight muscle can be released in this way. Rather than trying to apply force to lengthen, we show the muscle what relaxed feels like, and it can release. But what about beyond the body? Sometimes it’s not in our body we have pain, sometimes it is a result of our external environment. What about exaggerating your preferred place in space and time?
A way to play with this principle:
Find a room you can explore by walking around within it. Slowly walk around the room till you find your most preferred position in the room. It may be the light, the temperature, or just the ease or sense or “rightness” it gives you to be in that spot, as opposed to anywhere else in the room. Once you are there take a little walk around your preferred spot, in a 1 metre wide circle. Explore where you feel most comfortable in that circle, and stay there. Finally on the preferred spot, turn your body on the spot to discover which direction you are most comfortable to face. Exploring your preferred space is a useful tool in new places, or any place you feel uncomfortable, and have the option to explore a position preference. It incorporates “ living in the moment”/mindfulness practice, and the benefits to the brain and nervous system are becoming increasingly well documented. You can also play with exaggerating a preferred position in relationships with others. When you are in close proximity and interacting with another person (friend, colleague, boss, family member, etc) allow yourself to become mindfully aware of how close you prefer, or otherwise, to be to that person. How close or apart do you prefer to be? If you are able to, position yourself at your preferred distance and feel into that preference. If space is limited, or for any reason you are not able to be at your comfortable distance, try changing the position of your body, shifting your weight, or the direction you are facing (slightly)to explore your most preferred position, in relationship to the other person. Noticing and being in a preferred position will leave you feeling at your most comfortable, and assist the interaction between you and the other person. On the planet, if we all explored this, in all our interactions interpersonal tension might minimise. Imagine if we all felt into what was most comfortable, and acted from that platform, rather than being driven by less mindful objectives. Perhaps this practice is a great place to begin. People enjoy being around someone else who is comfortable in their skin, their space, and their environment.