A Pain Relief Method to End All Others

by Joel B.

I lived with chronic pain, despite trying every treatment in the book, for over a decade. The efficacy of somatic movement is superior to anything else. There are no negative side effects. It just works. I cannot understand why this is not more widely utilized.

The only investment is your own time—and if you are suffering with chronic pain, you’re already investing your time in the pain cycle, so you may as well use it for something effective.

As a young man, I had some physical trauma from risky behavior—motorcycle accidents, rock-climbing falls. I did not have any diagnostics done, other than an EKG, but learned that sitting in a straight-backed chair and walking pretty much kept a sore back at bay. I was able to do all my outdoor activities: fishing, hiking, backpacking, mountaineering. My honeymoon with my wife consisted of 120-mile backpack trip in the Sierra Nevada. I loved to walk. Walked the dogs several miles a day. Heck, I’d park at the far end of a parking lot of a big box store, just for the enjoyment of walking.

About 15 years ago I began to feel increased low back pain. Walking began to devolve from a blessing to a curse—from relieving pain to causing pain. I chalked it up the old injuries and, as they say, “the warranty expires when you turn fifty.” When low back pain began to interfere with my daily activities, I began to see specialists with my nationally-known health care provider. Long story short, every treatment in the book, but little change. The culmination, back surgery, did help with sciatica, but low back pain continued to increase and my daily activities decreased. Massage therapy and acupuncture provided relief, but transitory. Drugs, over the counter and prescriptive, provided absolutely no relief. And the latter had side effects, some quite nasty.

At times, I’d put a plastic patio chair in the shower because I couldn’t stand for more than a couple of minutes. Other times, I’d have to crawl up a flight of stairs to the bedroom. Walked with a cane. I tried to be stoic, but I wasn’t happy, and had a feeling that sooner or later a wheelchair was in my future, as well as a conversion of the downstairs office into a bedroom.

How did I find out about somatic movement? Truly, serendipity. I was on a flight and my seatmate was reading a book called The Pain Relief Secret. She explained that it had really helped her. With literally nothing to lose, I downloaded a copy via Kindle Unlimited. Read the book, and tried the Arch & Curl movements through the video link … and … wait, what? Although I had no upper spine or neck complaints, my upper posture was always slumped forward. Now, after a few Arches and Curls, it was straight. Holy cats! That convinced me there was really something here, and to sign up for the courses.

Ms. Warren is a gifted communicator; she knows her stuff and is able to explain it to someone who has no knowledge of human anatomy. Her verbal instructions are informative and supportive. The video and audio clips are very clear and easy to follow—though admittedly, at least for me, some movements are more challenging than others.

These are gentle, small movements. No feats of strength here. Nor is this boot camp. When I say some movements are more challenging, I mean that they employ muscles that are more embedded and “stuck in a rut” than others. This will make more sense when you read her book.

My improvement has been measurable. Measurement was always difficult in prior treatments. Although there were good days and bad days, it was impossible to tell the cause and effect. What made a good day or a bad day? No way to tell. Never could replicate good days.

With somatic movement, I am able to see small but concrete, and most importantly, long-lasting improvement. Here’s a simple example I call The Sandwich Challenge. How long does it take to make simple sandwich? Three, four minutes, right? Previously, I had about that long before the pain was so bad I’d need to take a break. It was a “challenge” to see if I could finish the sandwich first. Now, I can prepare said sandwich, do some dishes, tidy up the kitchen. Admittedly somewhat subjective, and not very scientific, but for me this is a real-life improvement that is as definite as it is undeniable.

So, today, I am doing much better, thank you. Pain is significantly reduced. My shoulders and hips are, for the first time I can remember, loose. I might even be able to dance. I can walk further. No cane. I can ascend stairs without using the rail to haul myself up. I also have a shorter recovery periods from long road trips or flights, which tend to render me a ball of tense, tight muscles by the time of arrival.

So yeah, somatic movement, Level One Course, gets 5/5 stars.

A comment on emotional release: Ms. Warren mentions this as a possibility. I did not experience emotional release while doing the movements. However, my emotional sensitivity, and my reaction, and especially empathy, has amped way up. Anything related to humanity: Music, whether classical symphony or a pop love song. The works of the Old Masters. War. Good deeds and kindness. Children playing. The love of, and humanity’s faith in, God. The good, bad, and ugly of what it is to be human. All of these would normally evoke an emotional response of some type, but now they feel much more powerful, and tears are not uncommon. This is not a complaint, mind you. I figure if these emotions need to rise to the surface, well then, let ‘em rip. I am by no means a psychologist, but I suspect my brain’s efforts to deal with pain had a dampening effect on other functions.

I now realize how much of my brain’s processing power was spent on pain, and dealing with pain. Being envious of people who could walk normally. Grumpy with my spouse. Feeling less than a man when I couldn’t shovel snow, or split and haul firewood. Getting up from a seated position with an “oooff.” Repeatedly yelling “Ouch!” in my sleep. Ugh. Anyway, my mood is much improved, partly because of decreased pain, and partly because of real hope for the future.

One aspect of somatic movement that the author emphasizes is that your mind has to be involved. This was new to me; initially I thought all I had to do was mimic the movements. I got lucky—serendipity strikes again—when the Arch & Curl worked right away, and prompted me to take a deeper dive. But, to the point, these are mindful movements. And it’s not a bad thing. I was never any good at meditation, I seem to be incapable of thinking of nothing. With somatic movement, however, I can focus on my muscles contracting and releasing. The end result seems to be the same as mediation, as I am calmer, more centered, and focused. I look forward to the sessions. A lot better than a steroid injection right on a spinal nerve, that’s for sure. I dreaded those.

Part of this method requires self-awareness, that is, awareness of your own body. Ms. Warren emphasizes this often. For me, before I started the course, I’d just say “low back pain.” With awareness, I am beginning to be more specific. It’s the difference between saying “my car makes a funny sound” to “Rust has created a leak in my exhaust manifold.”

Likewise, the effectiveness of somatic movement emanates from the self. All of the treatments I had beforehand consisted of someone doing something to me. (With the exception of physical therapy, where I was given stretching exercises. Even before I read The Pain Relief Secret, I knew these were just not helping.) Somatic movement requires self-actualization of the mind and the body. As Ms. Warren points out, there is one person at the helm, and that person is you. It sure is nice to know that my thoughts and movements are influential in my healing.

At first blush I thought the title of the book, The Pain Relief Secret, was intended as a punchy, attention-getting title. Turns out it is not. Apparently this really is a secret, unknown to managed health care, and apparently a fair number of practitioners of alternative medicines.

Don’t get me wrong: every man and woman who tried to help me were skilled, well-meaning professionals; good people. But they can do better. They can do humanity a favor by tuning in to the secret. It is not complicated.

If I can do it, anyone can.


Joel B.

P.S. I have been travelling to Christmas Island (Kiritimati in the local language) for many years, and on my recent trip I practiced somatics there for the first time. This photo shows the platform next to the hut where I practiced my somatic movements for two weeks. With the surf in the background it was incredibly relaxing. These platforms are used by the natives for sleeping or just hanging out. A marvel of architecture; the elevated platform, made of parallel sticks, keeps the trade winds above and below you–not at all hot, which you might expect on the equator. And you’re up away from the land crabs and other critters. You can see the hut also has an elevated sleeping area.