A woman (we'll call her Jane), came to me with debilitating knee pain, bunions, and neck pain. Jane wasn't an extreme athlete, nor was she a stranger to physical activity. So why was she in pain?

Habituated stress often manifests in the body from repetitive activities which can create pain. Jane had just changed jobs. As Jane and I talked, we determined her prior office environment had likely forced her body to contort and create patterns in her body: habituated stress. These patterns, compounded by the stress of changing jobs, had put Jane in pain. Her current ergonomic environment was not enough, by itself, to reverse the damage brought on by her previous physical habits.

Habituated stress can be acquired suddenly (like surgery) or over time (like Jane), or even during childhood, but the key to dealing with them is a three-part strategy:

* Rolfing to release contributing structural patterns contributing to the pain
* Re-educate the body in motion
* Create tools for optimal health (including addressing perceptions of health)

We began with hands-on work; following are three examples of how Jane changed as a result. Because Jane wasn't getting support from the ground up in her body, her body was working over-time to compensate. We began with her feet and legs to free each muscle to do the job for which it was designed and get the muscles in their best position for economy in motion. The second major structural change added on to the pelvis getting the support it needed from the legs: Jane's head moved back on top of her torso (no longer needing to be thrust forward to compensate) and her neck looked longer -- with no pain. The third major structural change was Jane's bunions decreased rotation and then in size thereby decreasing stress on the joints and relieving pain. Because of this, Jane was able to wear heels to her daughter's college graduation - because she could.

The second way I helped Jane retrain her body was in motion. Because her body enjoyed more freedom through movement, Jane reported she no longer experienced knee issues. By giving specific instructions of how to move her body, where the action should start, and the direction of the motion, we created options in her body. By educating Jane on anatomy and muscle actions, she could then imagine the motion and integrate that action in her everyday life. Plus, I gave Jane additional activities she could do on her own to support the work we were doing together.

Finally, the third way I helped Jane was by investigating and helping her let go of prior perceptions of loosing weight and getting "healthy." All methods of pursuing health do not work for all people. For example, Jane belonged to a gym. She had stopped going to the gym because afterwards the pain was excruciating. When her pain had become manageable and in some places non-existent, she went back to the gym where she did circuit training. Unfortunately - in agony - she was in the next day to see me. During that Rolfing session, she shifted out of pain; we relied on our previous work that had set up a balance to her structure. Jane clearly understood circuit training would NOT be a successful way for her to manage weight and get stronger. Alternatives Jane is exploring include yoga, walking, and swimming - and she is staying out of pain.

Habituated stress is very common. Don't compromise how you want to exist in the world. You have choices: get Rolfed, discover and create new ways to move, and explore tools for healthful living.

Plutarch said, "What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality." You are capable to support, adapt, balance, and integrate change in your body and in your life. Do it. Do it now.

Copyright 2008 Heather Corwin

Author's Bio: 

I have been practicing bodywork since 1993. My primary goal when working with you is to align your body so that you have increased ease in motion AND stillness- I want to make you more comfortable in your skin. Rolfing unwinds your body as a whole instead of separate parts; movement education evolves choices in your body. As a Certified Rolfer, Licensed Massage Therapist, Maternity M.T., Doula, Movement Educator, Licensed Skin Therapist, and Yoga teacher, I have the tools to help you reach your wellness goals. During my healing arts career, I have spent years serving in a chiropractic office, wellness centers, spas, health clubs, and at Ashland University. I have over 10,000 hand-on hours of experience. For more information about me (Heather Corwin), please visit BodybyHeather.com.