A Better Brain with FELDENKRAIS

In the days since the terrible violence in Tuscon, AZ, when a gunman took the lives of thirteen innocent people, including that of Federal Judge John Roll, and gravely wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others; the general public has received a steady media diet of stories about traumatic brain injuries and prospects for rehabilitation.  Thankfully, Rep. Giffords is doing remarkably well. We send our very best wishes to her, and to her family, during her convalescence and recovery.

As a result of this high-profile story, at both the national and local level, people are increasingly curious about the amazing capacity of the brain to regenerate itself, to find redundancies and “alternate routes” for parts that have  “gone off-line” due to stroke, or neurological process, or injury; and above all, that improvement is possible.  (For an excellent summary, see this recent PBS Report.)  At the core of the Feldenkrais Method is this very issue: how to create optimal conditions for any individual so that these changes in the brain — broadly called “learning,” can occur.

No doubt, Rep. Giffords will be getting state-of-the-art care at Houston’s Memorial Hermann Hospitals TIRR Center.  Their protocols are effective and tested, and I’ve heard that they are similar to those used in  our military hospitals to rehabilitate the traumatic brain injuries as have been suffered by our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.  They know what they are doing.

I always wonder how an already good experience can be made even better.  And so, it makes me wish that Rep. Giffords, and all of our wounded veterans, were able to have access to the learning and improvement that occurs with the Feldenkrais Method, in addition to the care they already receive.  The qualitative difference that our approach makes in easing pain, developing sensitivity and function, and improving balance and coordination, could be astonishing.

Our Method is already widely used in major hospitals in the US, most notably in the Kaiser Permanente system in California, and in the most progressive physical therapy settings.  Until a few years ago, the Memorial Hermann Wellness Center offered a weekly class in Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement, and a practitioner worked with their pain patients on a regular basis until her retirement.  This prior positive history with the method may justify re-opening the door.  I would love to see a group of patients receive the present TIRR approach in treatment, and another group receive the TIRR approach with the addition of regular Feldenkrais sessions.  My sense is that there would be a big difference in the group that also had Feldenkrais.  In addition to the patient benefits,  there is some preliminary evidence that people recover more quickly, which translates to lower costs.  Improved patient outcomes and a healthier bottom line are in the interest of any institution.

It’s all very interesting to ponder.  It also makes it important that people who have experienced the benefits of the Method — even if just for baby-boomer weekend-warrior pain — share their positive experiences instead of keeping them and us a secret.  We may not get to work with Rep. Giffords, but future cases — no, PEOPLE — will benefit down the line. We wish her the very best. And, Rep. Giffords:  I am at your service.

[Research studies about the Feldenkrais Method, including peer-reviewed articles, can be found at FeldSciNet.org.]

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