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Body Un-Awareness.

As a species, we are excellent at compensating. From surviving in harsh environments, overcoming illness and disease to dealing with daily stresses we learn to adapt and adjust in order to make it through the day. We do so on automatic pilot, especially within our own bodies. The brain's need to protect and keep the body functioning often sets up a chain reaction that leads to future more damaging complications. And we are blissfully unaware of what is going on in our own bodies until the damage is done.

The other day I was engaged by a massage therapist who wanted to learn more about my scar and stretching techniques. She lined up a full day of her clients for me to work with and for her to observe and assist when applicable. One female client with lower back pain could only lift her leg by engaging her opposite quadratus lumborum and her psoas. Her quadriceps where inactive. It took about 10 attempts of isolated movement with verbal and physical cueing to retrain her body to perform the function properly. She was in complete shock at how hard it was to lift her leg properly and how much she had been using her back.

A male client with severely locked hips (he is a marathon runner -1 could not imagine how he was even walking!) could not perform any movement without flexing his head forward: sitting down, standing up, lifting his legs, all trunk movements. He was totally unaware that he was moving his head at all. He could not believe that he was using his body incorrectly, that his movements were not natural (after all he was a long distance runner). He did not connect that his limited range of motion and inability to move freely were contributing to his dysfunction and pain.

Time was spent with each client after each session of stretching, scar work and massage, retraining them or simply making them aware of the their body mechanics. Later, when we had finished work and I was reviewing the day with the therapist, she was astonished at the difference in her clients. She agreed with me that it was important that our clients be made aware of their body mechanics. However she said that she did not feel there was enough time to do so.

The next day I had a new client come in - a mountain of muscle, but it took only a few seconds to observe that he had about 30% less mass on his right side. He had had several surgeries on his shoulder which caused nerve damage in his right latissimus dorsi. His physical therapy had ended a year ago and he stated that he has been working out at the gym trying to restore the muscle bulk himself. However, he did not know exactly what functions the latissimus dorsi were responsible for and consequently could not be sure he was performing the right exercises.

It seems that many people are disconnected from their bodies. Proper body movement can prevent and correct posture problems, reduce stress and enhance physical capabilities. However most people are unaware that they are not using their bodies the way they were designed to be used. They have very little body awareness.

In many cases, reminding and re-educating ourselves about how the body is designed to work helps restore our health.

Body awareness is being mindful of different parts of one's own body, their relative positions and the bodily sensations we are experiencing. It can help restore smooth, coordinated movements. Body awareness depends on being able to perceive and integrate information coming from all the sense organs, including the proprioceptors in the muscles and joints, which monitor internal movements.

Proprioception helps us keep track of and control different parts of our bodies. Proprioception develops as we grow. It helps us learn different types of movement or skills involving muscle. And anything learned can be learned incorrectly. With every correct or incorrect movement, as the client stands, sits, walks, drives, lifts, reaches, pushes, pulls, exercises, and even sleeps, the client is affecting his/her physical well-being. We may instruct our clients about body mechanics for such conditions as carpal tunnel or a bad back, but good body mechanics are also needed for all movements.

In my opinion, having the client fill out a medical history and tell you what their problem is is not enough information to start treatment. Observing how the body moves is also required. When the manual therapy is over it is important to discuss body mechanics with your clients. Spending a few minutes to observe how our clients move, both off and on the table, does not have to take much time from the session and will provide the benefits of showing clients how to use their bodies correctly and giving them the tools to improve their health.

A client brought his 8 year-old son to the clinic for a stretching session. He was concerned because the boy seemed very uncoordinated when he ran despite having attended a running training camp. What were needed, in this instance, were specific exercises to show and explain the running movements to the boy. I had the father hold his hand out in front of the boy at waist height and ask the child to lift his right knee to his father's hand. After several uncoordinated attempts and a little verbal and physical guidance he smoothly hit the target every time - simple as that. Dad left with a set of training exercises. Helping the boy gain better understanding of his body and muscle coordination is likely to assist him in his running.

I had a 50 year old female client with severe pain in both knees. She was trying to avoid having surgery. In order to reduce her pain she developed a habit of 'roll walking' (like a drunken sailor). Unfortunately, her body's solution to minimising pain was actually causing more stress and strain to her body. After the session she stood up from my table and started to walk around the office. She very happily announced that her pain was gone; however, she was still 'roll walking'. She did not understand what I was referring to. We spent the next 15 minutes retraining her how to walk.

Osteopaths, chiropractor and physical therapists are all qualified to offer counsel and education on proper body movement. Massage therapists can also use muscle testing in order to gain insight into their clients' conditions.

Using good body mechanics is important for everyone, not just our clients, but for massage therapists as well. As health professionals we need to educate and correct ourselves as well as our clients. Sometimes the answer to eliminating pain is going back to basics and simply relearning how to move using the best body mechanics. I am reminded of the old saying 'Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will eat for life'. You can help ease your clients pain for the moment or you can teach them body awareness and good body mechanics to help them return to or maintain a healthy life.

Marjorie Brook International Educator/Therapist

Marjorie Brook is an International Instructor/Therapist. She is the creator of the S.T.R.A.l.TMethod, a specialized therapy for fascial scars & adhesions. She teaches throughout the USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. Marjorie offers continuing education courses in Scar Tissue Release, Stretching and Strengthening, and Body Mechanics. She will teach S.T.R.A.l.T Method in Australia in May 20 i 7, more information at
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Title Annotation:ARTICLE
Author:Brook, Marjorie
Publication:Journal of the Australian Traditional-Medicine Society
Article Type:Report
Date:Sep 22, 2017
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