What is Clinical Somatic Education?

Clinical Somatic Education is a method of neuromuscular re-education which addresses the underlying cause of chronic pain. Most chronic musculoskeletal pain is caused by habitual movement patterns and muscle tension. Clinical Somatic Education uses specific movement techniques to release chronic muscle tension and allow you to relearn natural, efficient movement patterns.

Read below to learn how Thomas Hanna developed Clinical Somatic Education.

Clinical Somatic Education, also known as Hanna Somatic Education, was developed and defined by Thomas Hanna (1928-1990). Hanna received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1958, and later studied neurology at the University of Florida Medical School. His studies of philosophy and neuroscience allowed him to understand how experiences, stress, and emotions are manifested in muscle tension and movement patterns.

In the early 1970’s, Hanna began studying and working with Moshe Feldenkrais, who taught a movement education technique called Functional Integration. This technique gave Hanna the means by which to work with people hands-on and help them relearn natural, efficient movement patterns. In 1975, Hanna founded the Novato Institute of Somatic Research in Novato, California.

Hanna’s knowledge of neurophysiology led him to explore the ways in which the brain controls the body more deeply than his predecessors, such as Feldenkrais and F. Matthias Alexander, had done. During his years at the Novato Institute, Hanna coined the term “sensory-motor amnesia,” which describes a condition of the central nervous system in which learned, habitual muscular patterns have led to chronic muscle contraction and loss of sensation.

Hanna also developed the technique of pandiculation, which sets Clinical Somatic Education apart from all other types of therapeutic bodywork and medical treatments. Pandiculation works directly with sensory-motor amnesia by resetting the alpha-gamma loop, a sensory-motor feedback loop in the nervous system which senses and regulates muscle length.

From 1975 to 1990, Hanna worked with hundreds, if not thousands of clients at the Novato Institute who suffered from chronic pain conditions that had not been helped by Western medicine or other forms of therapeutic bodywork. Hanna was able to eliminate their pain through simple, gentle exercises which allowed them to release chronic muscle tension and relearn how their body should feel and move. Hanna wrote a number of books, including Somatics: Reawakening the Mind’s Control of Movement, Flexibility, and Health.

Hanna traveled the country and the world teaching both pain sufferers and medical professionals about Clinical Somatic Education. He had discovered the underlying cause of chronic muscle pain and many common musculoskeletal conditions, which until that point had seemed mysterious and incurable. “You have shown us what we thought we should learn during our training but never did. It is the missing link in health care,” expressed a group of physicians, osteopaths, chiropractors, and physical therapists in Australia. (Somatics by Thomas Hanna, page xii)

In 1990, due to high demand, Hanna began his first professional training program with 38 students. Tragically, after teaching the first semester of the three-semester program, Hanna was killed in a car accident. His students worked with the clients who were on his long waiting list, and went on to create training programs for future students.

Clinical Somatic Education will have a profound effect on the chronic pain epidemic in our country and our health care costs. Approximately 116 million Americans, or about a third of our population, suffer from chronic pain. That is more than diabetes (25.8 million), heart disease (16.3 million) and cancer (11.7 million) combined. Chronic pain costs us approximately $600 billion annually in health care and lost productivity, which is $2,000.00 each year for everyone living in the U.S.

Many of the people suffering from chronic pain would be able to go off pain medication and avoid repetitive visits to doctors, physical therapists, and body workers if they had the knowledge of how to relieve their own pain. Our mission is to educate and empower our clients to be free from chronic pain and be fully self-sufficient.

Click here to learn how Clinical Somatic Education is different from other therapies and modalities.