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.

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!

What exactly does a Feldenkrais Practitioner do that is so special and different?

Many have tried to describe Feldenkrais to their friends and family with marginal results. So here is what I say to answer this question:

"I am a Medical Doctor trained to design innovative, pain-free and effective movement programs to achieve rapid and permanent relief of various pain and disability syndromes."

I am essentially a somatic engineer that sees and teaches the future of physical therapy!

Call me for a free phone consultation : 760-436-2403 and we can talk specifically about how all this relates to you.

Back pain and sciatica relief for people over 40: Five Feldenkrais tips everyone should know

If you have lower back pain with or without sciatica you’re not alone. Millions suffer from low back pain and leg pain every day. Given the vast array of treatment choices, how does one decide on a course of back pain relief? The following 5 tips based on the Feldenkrais Method for relieving back pain and sciatica may help:

  • Back pain is not prevented by strengthening of the muscles of the back
  • The stability of the back rather than the strength of the back prevents back pain
  • Therapy for stability is quite different from strength training
  • The stability of the back depends on a properly functioning spinal core
  • A properly functioning spinal core has vertebrae that relate functionally to each other

Functional relationships differ immensely from structural relationships. Structural relationships can be seen on an x-ray and MRI, and are often used to justify back pain diagnoses and treatment plans. Functional relationships on the other hand can be seen with the naked eye. Can you turn as easily to your left as you turn to the right? Does one direction create back pain, while the other direction feels more comfortable? Can you easily bend forward to put on your shoes, get up from a chair, and get into and out of the car without pain? Can you sleep restfully?

Sciatica and back pain relief result from improving functional relationships within the spine, and optimizing the function of the spine as it relates to the rest of the body. How is this accomplished? Each and every Feldenkrais lesson, of which there are thousands, addresses the functional relationships of the spinal core while teaching you to reach, roll over, and sit without pain. Feldenkrais Method lessons create environments within which the body can begin to heal itself by bringing the function back. Function which may have been lost for years by overuse, injury or misuse. Function which will return in a matter of weeks. Let Feldenkrais help you live more comfortably, out of pain.