About Hanna Somatic Education
Hanna Somatic Education (also known as Hanna Somatics and Hanna Somatic Neuroeducation) is a rapidly effective form of neuromuscular (mind-body training) movement re-education that goes directly to the root cause of most chronic muscular pain: the brain and the way in which it senses and organizes the muscles and movement. By learning to regain both awareness, sensation, and motor control of muscles – an educational process that can only be achieved through movement – the brain can remember how to relax and move the muscles properly. This process of sensory motor training creates improved muscle function and enhanced sensory awareness.
Consider this: each muscle in your body is innervated by a nerve which carries signals from the brain and the rest of the central nervous system. If that nerve is cut and the muscle disconnected from the central nervous system, the muscle becomes flaccid and loose. This happens regardless of whether or not the muscle is "tight" or "loose." The tonicity of the muscle is determined by signals from the central nervous system. So, it follows if you tight muscles, the problem is not intrinsic to the muscles, but rather in how your brain and central nervous system signal to the muscle. To get "loose and relaxed muscles" one must learn to relax them which.
Hanna Somatic Education is a safe, gentle and common sense approach to learn to relax tight and painful muscles. It does this by targeting muscles that we've forgotten how to relax. The field of Hanna Somatics refers to the state of these forgotten, tight muscles as SENSORY MOTOR AMNESIA (SMA).
Sensory Motor Amnesia
Sensory Motor Amnesia is the condition of chronically-tight muscles that have learned to stay contracted due to repeated and reflexive response to stress such as accidents, injuries, surgeries, repetitive tasks, and on-going emotional stress. The resulting patterns of muscular contraction that develop can result in such common conditions as chronic back pain, neck, shoulder and hip pain, limited mobility, joint pain, poor posture, shallow breathing, and uneven leg length if one side of the back is tighter than the other.
- Long term pain relief from a host of common conditions
- Life long skills that teach you how to regain voluntary control of habitually tight muscles
- Greater physical independence and mastery of your movement
- Increased flexibility, coordination, stress relief, balance and proprioception
- A safe, easy and common sense alternative to drugs, and surgery
Benefits of Hanna Somatics
- Release and reverse neuromuscular pain (chronic and acute)
- Improve mobility, strength and coordination
- Improve posture and appearance
- Eliminate the need for guarding to protect injured areas
- Improve physical fitness
- Create a new freedom of movement
- Ease breathing
- Improve athletic skills
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Hanna Somatic Education (HSE)?
HSE is a neuromuscular re-education technique incorporating both verbal and hands-on movement instruction. Your nervous system (brain) controls your muscles. HSE teaches you to release and relax your muscles so you can regain proper muscle function again. Hanna Somatics consists of gentle, interactive hands-on work, movement sequences and sensory awareness training that increases brain-muscle coordination and triggers tight muscles to relax. Hanna Somatics can help you eliminate or reduce habitual, muscle tension in your body and increase stability, flexibility and comfort in your body.
Is Hanna Somatic Education (HSE) covered by insurance?
HSE is covered by insurance if the instructor is a licensed Physical Therapist or Physical Therapy Assistant.
What is a typical Hanna Somatic Education session like?
A typical session lasts about 60 minutes. The practitioner starts by examining how your brain is organizing muscle contraction patterns while you are standing, walking and lying down. You will be guided through a series of simple, interactive movements designed to help your brain pick up sensory signals from your muscles. As you consciously move your body with intention, your practitioner will add gentle hands-on feedback -- a process called assisted pandiculation. This unique form of sensory-motor education reengages your conscious brain's ability to lengthen and relax your tense muscles.
Why am I still in pain after surgery or other forms of therapy?
Our brains are designed to efficiently learn habits of muscular contraction and movement that then become unconscious and automatic. Maladaptive habits can strain and damage joints, fatigue muscles, and reduce circulation in the body.
What is different between HSE and other forms of physical therapy?
- Typical manual physical therapy, chiropractic manipulations, and massage relies on a practitioner manipulating your joints or tissues while you are passive. Essentially, the practitioner attempts to "fix" you.
- HSE identifies and directly addresses your maladaptive muscular holding patterns controlled by unconscious and habituated reflexes that you might not be aware of.
- HSE uses the technique of assisted pandiculation to teach you to re-set muscle tension and length (tonicity) and control at the level of your nervous system.
- Most critically, you learn to do voluntary movements to create sensations that enable increased awareness and control of skeletal muscles. In essence, you use your own experience of bodily sensations and your own controlled movements to break unconscious habits, in effect, fixing yourself.
How can I prepare for my Hanna Somatics session?
The most important thing for you to remember is that Somatic Exercises change your muscular system by changing the way your central nervous system controls your body. You will derive the most benefit from Somatics if:
- While doing the Somatic Exercises, your primary task is to focus your attention the sensations of movement.
- Wear loose clothing, and minimize/eliminate distractions. Turn off your phone if you can and try to come mentally prepared to focus on your session. There's no need for athletic gear. You're not supposed to work up a sweat doing Somatic Exercises.
- Always move slowly. Moving slowly, you give your brain the chance to notice all that is happening in your body as you move. The slower you go, the more you perceive.
- Always move gently and with the least possible effort.
- Do not force any movement. Imagine your tight muscles like a tangled cord or string. If you want to untie a knot, you must look at the cord carefully then gently undo the tangle. Yanking on the cord will only make the knot tighter.
- People who are already suffering from sensory-motor amnesia, especially those with severely contracted lower back muscles, will sometimes feel soreness when these muscles first begin to lengthen. This is to be expected; and once their muscles lengthen, the soreness will disappear.
- Be persistent, patient, and positive Somatic Exercises change your body by teaching your brain. Your learning grows steadily and solidly. Sometimes our muscles have been tight for many years, and you cannot expect to be "fixed"in one session. However, many of our clients and patient report significant relief in as little as one or two sessions.
Can I do Hanna Somatics in conjunction with other forms of therapeutic work or medical treatment?
Absolutely. A powerful modality in its own right, Hanna Somatics also enhances the effectiveness of other forms of physical therapy and bodywork. At Farmington Valley Physical Therapy, we often use Hanna Somatics as a method to develop body awareness, coordination, and to reverse maladaptive movement patterns before proceeding to strength training and conditioning.
Do I have to attend Physical Therapy to try Hanna Somatic Education?
No, we offer stand-alone Hanna Somatic Education private sessions and Hanna Somatic Education group classes independent of physical therapy. These sessions are not covered by insurance. Please call our office at (860) 673-0223 to schedule an appointment for a private Hanna Somatics session. Go to the Group Exercise Class page under the Services tab of FVPT's website for more information about our Hanna Somatic group classes.