Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bodywork: an Introduction (Not an Intervention)

For years, I have struggled with finding a way to help The Dude strengthen his muscles, counteract the scoliosis, and assist him in living pain-free.  Yes, he does have pain and discomfort.  He can tell me where and what hurts, and has for several years.

Physical therapy does wonders for so many people, particularly the Schroth method for scoliosis.  There are no Schroth method therapists in our region, but we have had the great fortune to have worked with two Schroth PTs within the past year.  One passionate therapist visited us from across the country, working with The Dude a few hours of her vacation, and the other talented and energetic therapist devoted most of two days to us when we last went to D.C. for our Rigo-Cheneau brace adjustment.  I also have the Schroth Method Book and a marvelous anatomy text recommended by one of our Schroth PTs: Atlas of Human Anatomy by Frank H. Netter, MD.  Even with the detailed instruction of these devoted therapists, the well-written notes given to me (typed! with color-coded tables!) by one of them, and my own dedication and, may I say, intuitive application, let me be honest: it is not easy getting a 4-year-old boy to do physical therapy exercises correctly and/or consistently.  Not easy! 

I recently began thinking of bodywork.  I began wondering if The Dude lacks something fundamental in body awareness--you know, from being in body casts and rigid, full-time bracing for at least half his life--and whether this kind of modality could help him relieve some of the pain and discomfort he feels.

See, I had a couple of weeks of life-changing lessons in the Alexander Technique when I was a student in music school.  It gave me a freedom of expression and control during my subsequent solo recital that, frankly, years of clarinet lessons and performances and practice could never accomplish.  I dare say Alexander Technique managed to undo much of the damage that years of lessons, performances, and practice had caused!  But that would be subject matter for another blog, entirely, I am sure.  So, I began searching for someone local to teach Alexander.  And guess what: I found none!  (This may not surprise you.)

Have you heard of the Feldenkrais Method?  It is quite similar to the Alexander Technique.  And there are some teachers here in our metropolis!  The Dude has had two lessons with a Feldenkrais teacher, and from what I have learned by observation and research, I believe this modality will give my little Dude the tools he needs in order to use physical therapy later on.  I believe he has been lacking some fundamental sensory integration, or body integration, or perhaps it's mind integration?  Whatever you call it, I am encouraged by the effects of his first two lessons!

There are no corrections in these lessons.  No directions to do things.  Just simple being, allowing the teacher to manipulate the various joints, bones, appendages, calling attention to connections or motions from time to time, but always allowing the teacher to take the lead.  The method teaches awareness of the entire body's potentials for movement, and the mind will absorb and use this naturally.  There are no therapeutic goals, no symmetry to be attained, no focus on the spine or scoliosis or dysfunction or deformity.  No interventions.  I imagine it's both a puzzle and a relief, now that I think about it!

After some gentle manipulations during his first lesson last Friday, his posture spontaneously, beautifully corrected to a free, upright, balanced state, and most impressively, his head was not jutting forward!  Those ropey muscles at the back of his little neck were, for the first time in memory, not prominent and overworked!  This effect lasted several days.  I was SO pleased to have already scheduled his second lesson, and have been looking forward to it the entire week. 

He had the second lesson today, and after we returned home, I measured his height.  A full 3/4 inch taller than before Feldenkrais.  I am floored.

I have already scheduled a series of 10 lessons for The his moderate dismay.  He says the lessons are relaxing, but at an hour per lesson, I can see that he's done before the teacher finishes.  Also, while the teacher is technically in our metropolis, she is in fact an hour from our home, so altogether this is a three-hour commitment, not including the getting-ready-to-go routine.

But the difference here is that, for most of his young life, The Dude has had interventions and therapy to address his scoliosis.  It is what it is, but focused interventions do have a profound effect on an individual.   And I suspect that learning to freely use all his parts, to use his whole body, just the way he wants to, will have an equally profound effect.