Why Would a Medical Doctor Get into the Feldenkrais Method?

Lori Malkoff, MD surfing in the annual Stone Steps contest finals 2013

Lori Malkoff, MD surfing in the annual Stone Steps contest finals 2013

I am often asked, "Why would a Medical Doctor get into the Feldenkrais Method?" Great question!!

It all started in 1993 on a surfboard. I was doing a drop knee cut back on a longer board, and I felt a pop in my left knee. My knee swelled up and hurt for a few weeks, but seemingly healed. That is unless I tried to do anything fun: run with the dog, play golf, basketball, SURF! In which case my knee would swell up and hurt all over again. I tried everything to make my knee better: physical therapy, massage, energy healing, rolfing, yoga, acupuncture, Pilates and finally SURGERY for a torn medial meniscus. Yes, I finally caved and let the surgeon in. That was desperate, and useless! Nothing helped the pain in my knee that I still had even one year after surgery. Nothing until I found a Feldenkrais Practitioner three miles from my Encinitas home, Dr. Mark Reese (RIP). Yes, I am a lucky girl!!  Not only did Mark Reese, PhD live close, he happened to be one of the best Feldenkrais Practitioners in the US. The Feldenkrais Method not only made all the pain in my knee go away, I felt better, younger and more vibrant! I was so amazed, that after several treatments, I decided to become a practitioner in 1995. I was going to be 4 years older anyway, I might as well be 4 years smarter with a certification and new level of expertise!! I loved my Feldenkrais Training with Mark, and I am proud to have graduated from his teacher training program in 1998.

In 1999, I hit a rock on my skateboard while simply cruising down my street. My left foot, the foot on the skateboard as I was pushing myself along with my right foot, came to a full stop, while my left femur (thigh bone) continued forward. Ouch, @#$&^, that hurt. I just knew I had really hurt myself. This time my knee swelled up immediately. Within one hour it was quite huge, and the pain was severe. I went to my doctor the next day, was examined (large + drawer sign) and immediately got an MRI. My ACL was completely severed, and the medial AND lateral menisci were torn. Wow, I had "blown it out"!  My primary care doctor offered me an orthopedic consult and physical therapy. But instead of conventional care, this time I used the Feldenkrais Method exclusively to heal my knee pain. After several table lessons and an immersion in Awareness through Movement lessons, two weeks later I was walking well and able to gently bike on level ground. Five weeks post injury, I was surfing. Yep, and without pain or fear of instability.

My last MRI was in 2010 after a minor skiing incident. The MRI showed that all the injuries I sustained during my skateboard accident were still present and accounted for. In fact, my MRI so confounds my surgeon given my age, activity level, and observable images of injuries, that "colorful" is the only word that comes out his mouth when he reviews it. But no new changes this time; yea!

Now it is 2017, many years post-injury. My knee remains functional and pain free!!  I still surf, play golf, and play just about anything I want. No, I do not jog. Why? Because it hurts: my body doesn't like it, so I just don't use jogging for my aerobic activity!! I do other things. My standing knee x-rays continue to show an excellent, well-preserved joint space, with a few arthritic changes.  And that's why I got into Feldenkrais...it is the most empowering decision I have ever made.

Case Study using Feldenkrais and Diet to Treat Multiple Sclerosis

A compelling new short film has just been released detailing the results of a mom with multiple sclerosis and her successful journey to maintain independence using the Feldenkrais Method. Please share this film with those you know who suffer from this disabling disease:

click here to watch!

Neurochemistry of Pain Relief Using Feldenkrais

Using the widely accepted Wall and Melzack “Gate Control Theory” of pain, Feldenkrais may work to achieve pain relief by activating pain inhibitory cells in the spinal cord.

The Gate Control theory proposes that inhibitory nerve cells in the spinal cord control whether a pain impulse coming from the periphery, such as the foot, is relayed to the brain or not.

A Swiss research team has discovered which inhibitory neurons in the spinal cord are responsible for this control function. As the study published in Neuron shows, the control cells for the gate are located in the spinal cord and use the amino acid glycine as an inhibitory messenger.

Based on everyday experience we know that gently rubbing or holding an injured extremity can alleviate pain in this area. According to Gate Control theory, non-painful contact (touch) with the skin activates the inhibitory cells. The researchers verified this hypothesis and confirmed that the inhibitory, glycine-releasing neurons are innervated by such touch-sensitive skin nerves (mechanoreceptors.)

The pharmacologists were also able to demonstrate that neurons (nociceptors) where the relay of the pain signals takes place are primarily inhibited by glycine signals. These findings identify for the first time the neurons and connections that underlie the Gate Control Theory of pain.

Pain relief is often achieved by a single simple, yet precise Feldenkrais lesson. This can now partially be explained by mechanoreceptors activated by the simple touch of a Feldenkrais practitioner. Pain relief is also achieved by the overall improvement in the body’s organization for movement, mediated in the brain by the process of neuroplasticity. 

 

Therapy works just as well as fusion for disc-related back pain

Surgery for back pain does not work any better than therapy or no treatment at all. A study conducted at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital ("Operative and Nonoperative Treatment Approaches for Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease Have Similar Long-Term Clinical Outcomes Among Patients With Positive Discography" - September 15, 2013) found that patients with back pain and disc disease did not demonstrate a significant difference in the outcome measures of pain, health status, satisfaction, or disability based on whether the patient elected for fusion or no surgery at all. Therapy is now a first-line option for treating chronic back pain, and the Feldenkrais Method can be recommended with confidence that it is backed by science. 

Successful brain aging

A special issue of Science looks at the mechanisms and contexts of successful brain aging. The development of the brain through one’s entire life is affected by genetic, physical, and psychological factors. One thing we know for certain, our mental lives benefit when we lead lives that are not only physically healthy, but also intellectually challenging and socially engaged.

As we age, our brains constantly reorganize in response to new experiences, a process called neuroplasticity. Reading, writing, games and puzzles are incredibly fun and helpful. Even after horrible physical or psychosocial trauma, such as a stroke or a loved one's sudden death, there is a phenomenal level of flexibility in the brain that enables an individual to compensate and cope, and return to brain health. 

How can we interpret this brain aging study? Stay healthy, be mindful, have good friends, and have novel experiences that create strength and joy. Feldenkrais Awareness through Movement is a perfect example of a novel experience leading to better overall organization and brain health. See if you can find the joy in it!

Using mental rest to improve learning

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have shown that the right kind of mental rest, which strengthens and consolidates memories from recent learning tasks, helps boost future learning. “We’ve shown for the first time that how the brain processes information during rest can improve future learning,” says Preston. “We think replaying memories during rest makes those earlier memories stronger, not just impacting the original content, but impacting the memories to come”. From Mental rest and reflection boost learning.

This hypothesis could explain why we take frequent rests during a Feldenkrais lesson. And during those rests, we reflect on the changes that have occurred. The learning is enhanced by repeating this process for an entire lesson, translating into more a fluid, organized series of movements. This better organized movement translates into improved ability and reduced pain.

What does this mean for you? Slow down, breathe, and reflect frequently. Your whole life may get a lot easier!

Exercise is a key to keeping dementia away

Research reveals that exercise is one of the best ways to protect against dementia in later life and the earlier you start, the greater the effect (from Exercise and Dementia).

However, it is only those ENJOYABLE hobbies, activities, concerts, and book clubs that seem to make a difference in brain health. “The minute a provider prescribes an activity people hate doing…most likely the effect in terms of being beneficial for brain health is lost.”

“It produces so much stress in the body not wanting to do the prescribed repulsive activity that the stress becomes more harmful than the benefit of keeping the brain active.”

Would you like to exercise more for both brain and general health, but have chronic pain issues holding you back? Contact the Feldenkrais Center at 760-436-2403 and let me help you return to those activities that bring you joy.

Lori L. Malkoff, MD 

Lori L. Malkoff, MD 

Feldenkrais and changing neural networks

The Feldenkrais Method is based on our current understanding of the processes involved in learning movement skills. It is a systematic approach to improving human movement and general functioning. Feldenkrais depends on our brain's ability to change rapidly, a process called neuroplasticity. It's basic premise is man's ability to learn and access a myriad of software programs for each and every action a human performs.

It would make sense that a system existed to upgrade brain hardware to keep up with these new software options. And there is. Scientists at Duke have found a new type of neuron in the adult brain that is capable of telling stem cells to make more new neurons. Though the experiments are in their early stages, the findings open the amazing possibility that the brain may repair and upgrade itself from within (retrieved 6/4/14 from Neuron Tells Stem Cells to Grow New Neurons.)

This research explains the neuroanatomy and neurophysiology of the Feldenkrais Method. It will be exciting to see what research comes next to validate this form of physical improvement.

 

Feldenkrais, Neuroplasticity and New Discoveries in Chronic Pain

More than 100 million Americans experience chronic pain. And although that’s more than the number of Americans who suffer from heart disease, cancer, or diabetes combined, chronic pain often goes untreated. Chronic pain is distinguished from acute pain in that it lasts for much longer than normally expected, usually over three to six months. 
Until now, the common misconception about pain is that it’s connected to tissue injury. Most people think that unless something’s broken, or torn, or herniated, that you’re not going to have persistent pain. In other words, some sort of damage that you can see or image should exist. We now know that this is not the case. Chronic pain is caused by changes in the brain and the spinal cord and the nerves that go through tissues. Because you can’t tell by looking at someone how much pain they’re in, and people assume that you can, patients with chronic pain face a lot of challenges (from New Discoveries in Chronic Pain Research, retrieved 11/1/13). 
Feldenkrais uses our nervous system's capacity for self-organizing and self-regulating to improve the quality of our actions, a process called neuroplasticity. Improving movement quality allows the body to function more efficiently. This efficiency creates environments for chronic pain to heal, and opportunities for athletes and others to excel. 
Having chronic pain? Don’t let it ruin your quality of life! Allow me to show you how the Feldenkrais Method can work for you. Please call 760-436-2403 for your free phone consultation.

Feldenkrais for the relief of sciatic pain

In spite of the impressive number of treatment options available, most approaches to back pain often prove less than satisfying and the relief is usually not permanent.

Sciatica represents a degenerative process in the discs of the low back. Each vertebra is cushioned above and below by an intervertebral disc. Discs can degenerate and bulge. The bulging disc places pressure on nearby spinal nerves, and is felt as pain in the back, buttock, thigh, leg, or foot.

The Feldenkrais process creates an environment for herniated discs to heal. It produces a lengthening of the spine through the selective relaxation of back, abdomen and diaphragm musculature. Feldenkrais also organizes the spine for movement by integrating spinal movements with the head, shoulders, pelvis, and hips. Finally, the back understands the work asked from it, and degenerative discs can heal.

See what Feldenkrais can do for your sciatic pain. Call me for a free phone consultation at 760-436-2403.