Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Does physical pain dictate your life? - Notes on CFR Therapy

My chronic back injury (on and off for my adult life) has played a huge role in my quality of life and the shaping of my choices.  At 32 years old, going on 33, I am sooooo ready to allow my back to NOT be a deciding factor in the way I shape my life.

As a dance instructor, choreographer, dancer, the injuries in their many forms have been hard psychologically as well as physically.  How do I do what I do when I can't move?  Of course, we all live with things.  Some people have addictions, some people fight their weight, some fight anxiety or depression, some are faced with learning disabilities or family obligations.  The point is we all have "stuff" to deal with, and mine has most recently been my back pain.

I had been going to a chiropractor whom I really like and who has been very helpful in relieving my acute symptoms (immediate horrible pain).  But, I wanted to explore something else.  What if the pain never returned? What if my "back issues" became a non-thing?  

Enter CFR. . .

I was referred by my chiropractor to a physical therapist who practices a technique called Cortical Field Re-education or CFR.  It is a method of very, very simple movement explorations as a means of waking up the entire body to its movement potential.  It focuses on the point of initiation and then the sequential paths to an action.  In my case my entire mid and upper torso was frozen and shut down.  My brain had shut off its awareness and sensation of the entire area in order to protect it at some point.  Thus, my low back has been working overtime to compensate. Poor lower back! You were just trying to help me out!

After the first session I had, I felt completely disoriented and had a lot of discomfort and some pain in my low back, but I also noticed my mid back for the first time in years.  I could feel the slightest twisting as I walked.  My brain was waking up to my body.

I went into my second session in acute pain.  I made the personal commitment that I would not trigger my symptoms for the duration of the 1 1/2 hour lesson.  I moved VERY slowly and very small.  But, at the end of the session, I was symptom free.  Meaning I could walk, sit and lie down without symptoms-- if I was careful and didn't follow old patterns of overuse. This is when CFR hooked me.

The third session was a continued exploration of what I could do and how I could move without pain.  I found it so interesting and rewarding to move my body with the single goal of being pain free.  I am so trained from dance to "do the movement right" that I felt great relief in being able to move without performance expectations.

My most recent CFR experience was just on Saturday.  It was a day-long intensive (8 hours). We worked through incredible twists, and shoulder openings and circles of the ribcage and pelvis.  My midback was howling by the end.  It was like I woke a monster that had been locked up for ages.  The pain is not terrible, but the soreness is real and surprisingly deep, not the type you get from doing too many reps at the gym.  It feels like I have wrung out the deepest and most subtle muscles possible.  And, my low back is doing quite well.  So. . .

I'm sticking with it.  Because, I want to know what it is like to make my life decisions without the chatter of my back telling me what I can and can't do. 

If you are interested in more of the scientific and nitty gritty info on CFR you can go to this general website.  But I prefer my practitioner's website which I found very informative and easy to follow. 

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