Sciatica – Off Painkillers, To Her Doctor's Amazement


Ellen had had searing pain down her left leg for over a year. She told me, “I’m not sure you can help me, but I’ve got nothing left to lose.” She was 72.  She was a excellent example of how combining medical protocols (she took the painkiller Lyrica, for nerve pain) and Hanna Somatics helped her to become pain-free.

One look at Ellen made it clear why she had pain down one leg: her hips were completely twisted and her upper torso tilted precariously over to one side, while the opposite hip tightened to keep her in balance. Sheila insisted that she had never suffered any major accident that she could remember. She said that this condition just seemed to appear “out of nowhere.”  She had trouble walking long distances, but no trouble sitting. She didn’t want to sit for the rest of her life!

Figure 1

Figure 1

In Figure 1, you can see Ellen's typical scoliotic posture: one hip higher than the other with the same side shoulder pulled down, a pelvis that twisted forward and up, and an opposite shoulder that contracted to counterbalance her weight. The goal for Ellen was to get her to sense the difference between tilting to the right and standing at a neutral straight.

During the first session we focused on regaining awareness and movement in the trunk rotators of the torso so she could bend to both the right and left sides of her body. This was a challenge for her; she’d literally forgotten how to move her hips up and down and had been walking with no movement in her spine for years.

We then addressed the muscles of the back of the body for easier extension of her back muscles. Ellen was soon able to contract and relax her back muscles, which helped to ease the pain in her buttock and down her leg. Over several sessions, however, she regained coordination of cross lateral movement of her shoulders and hips (as in walking) as well as the ability to move her ribcage side to side. Her walking became smoother.  She attended classes every once in a while, including a workshop for legs and hips.

Most important of all, Ellen learned and practiced a daily minute routine of gentle sensory motor movements that reinforced and integrated the new habits she had created. She was diligent about practicing these movements -  and it wasn't easy. It took patience and awareness for her to reacquaint herself with certain movement patterns that she hadn't performed in decades.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Over the course of several months I saw Ellen six times. She then decided to come once a month for a “tune up” in order to slowly continue her progress.

Figure 2 is Ellen after only ten months of Somatics. Notice her straight posture and level shoulders! She now stands with weight on both legs.

One day Sheila came to me and announced,“I’ve stopped all my painkillers and am completely out of pain. I told my neurologist and he said that it’s not possible. I assured him it is.” Her diligence and patient practice has had paid off.  With the help of Lyrica, she was able to do certain movements that retrained her muscles to relax. Once she relaxed her muscles, her pelvis returned to neutral, her leg length evened out and her nerve pain disappeared.  Sheila has been pain-free, back to gardening, playing with her grandchildren, and traveling for over four years now. 


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