Learning to Move Beyond Pain with the Feldenkrais Method

There are so many ways of addressing physical pain.  As a physical therapist, I’ve learned some things about how to categorize and make sense of pain through clinical decision making and differential diagnoses. 

More generally, I have learned that pain is a messenger.  Some might even describe it as a survival mechanism- a note from above, telling us that something is wrong or needs our attention.  As I once heard the Pain Scientist David Butler say, “No brain, no pain.”

However, the brain and nervous system are designed for so much more than pain, and what I believe made Moshe Feldenkrais one of our most important leaders in Pain Science is that he alerted his students’ attention to their other sensations, quite naturally teaching them that they could move in better and nonpainful ways by paying attention to where movement felt easeful, and allowing that to guide their future roadmap. He would say of his method, that it would “turn the impossible into the possible, the difficult into the easy and the easy into the pleasant.” 

Feldenkrais made a distinction between movement difficulty and complexity, understanding that difficulty is perception. He brought awareness to the pleasure of learning, and taught his students to re-engage in learning after injury from the same place of curiosity and play that enabled them to learn to move well in an earlier phase of life.

As described by Mark Reese in his biography Moshe Feldenkrais: A Life in Movement,  “Feldenkrais understood movement in radically general terms: movement experience gives us the raw material for finding orientation in time and space, and for developing thinking and feeling.  Movement was the key to learning, teaching us about ourselves and furthering our self-awareness. “ 

Today, Pain Scientists like Paul Hodges have shown that in prolonged painful states, our brains distort our own body image, and as we heal from physical pain, the clarity of our mental maps restore too.  We evolve from pain through clarity and engagement. From the perspective of Moshe Feldenkrais, our ability to feel and know ourselves is how we learn to start again.