Living with Arthritis: Motion is Lotion

March 15, 2017

I have often heard people with arthritic conditions say that the worst time of the day is when they have to get moving in the morning; once they’re up things settle down and they have less discomfort. Why is this? Well, in order to move easily our joints need lubrication which is provided by a substance called synovial fluid. This lubricant is produced on demand—the demand being movement. If we don’t move we don’t produce the fluid and after sleeping in the same position all night our joints are creaky and for arthritis sufferers painful—quite literally, motion is lotion. You’re probably saying, “I get it—it makes perfect sense but it’s still a painful process to get mobile.” So for the next few postings I’ll make some suggestions that may bridge this gap.

In order to stop feeling pain we must begin to rediscover our ability to experience pleasure.  The first step is to learn to move in ways so gentle, so easy, and so organically pleasurable that we will want to repeat them.  Learn to identify sensations besides pain. Move into and out of a position while looking for easier and simpler ways to do it.

* make small movements
* move slowly and stay within the “envelope of ease”
* make the movements more about play and less about work
* notice the areas of restriction and holding
* pay attention to breathing

Practice makes perfect.  If you have difficulty with a particular movement such as rolling over in bed, practice when you have time and are feeling fresh. Think through your movements before you do them.  A dress rehearsal gives your nervous system time to adjust to a new activity. Then when you want to roll over in the middle of the night there’s a greater chance that you’ll do it without causing the discomfort you felt before.

Try the following Feldenkrais® Awareness Through Movement® Lesson for rolling to the side. Read through the directions several times before you try it so that you become familiar with the instructions.

Rolling Over to the Side in Lying

1. Begin by simply feeling the contact of your body against the surface you’re lying on and relaxing into it.  Then, notice which side you would be more inclined to turn to if you did the movement.  Your nervous system will automatically choose the easiest side—this is the side on which to begin the lesson.  Slowly turn your head to the side you have chosen and back to center.  Do this gently and lazily 3 or 4 times as you might if you were just waking up in the morning. 

2. Notice that if you relax your upper body your shoulders will shift a little as you turn your head.  The shoulder on the side that your head is turning to, will sink down into the bed and the other shoulder will rise up a little bit.  Allow your head and shoulder to move together several times and notice how it feels. Each time make the movement easier and more relaxed. 

3. Now slide the opposite arm over top of yourself to the side that you are turning to (so if you were going to the right, your left arm would move over to the right).  This may seem to be an obvious move but you would be surprised how many people that I have worked with keep their arm pinned to the bed as they try to turn their body.  Notice that the arm begins to assist the movement of the head, neck, shoulder and ribs as you move to the side.

4. As your arm slides over to the side your turning to your whole trunk will want to join in. Finally, the knees can begin to bend to the side and this will encourage the pelvis to begin tipping to the side as well. Don't bend the knees all the way at first. Let them slowly get used to the idea of bending and your pelvis of tipping.  Go gently so that your awareness of the movements increases with each initiation.  Time the movement so that your knees begin to bend as your arm slides over to the side and your head begins to turn.  In a very relaxed manner, continue to take your body to the side and back so that you begin to get a sense in your body of the ease and spontaneity of the movement.

5. When you get to your side, reverse the order of the instructions so that you can return to your back.  Do this gently and mindfully so that your body can get used to the sequence.  After several repetitions, rest on your back. As you practice this sequence it will become easier and more spontaneous. Eventually it should make turning over at night a more pleasant experience.

Wake Up Your Body and Brain by Sandra Bradshaw

My book, Wake Up Your Body and Brain is not meant as a “cure all”. It is a place to start a process for physical and mental improvement and give you a taste of what’s possible. It’s now your job to pursue this work and embrace it as part of your daily routine. The Feldenkrais lexicon contains thousands of Awareness Through Movement® lessons addressing every conceivable aspect of movement and improvement. Many of these lessons are available via the internet as on-line classes or prerecorded audio and video lessons. I invite you to explore and experience the possibilities. You will be glad you did! Buy your copy of "Wake Up Your Body and Brain" from Amazon, or download it today.

Sandra Bradshaw, Guild Certified Feldenkrais® Practitioner Functional Movement Specialist will help you to boost your capacity to move effortlessly. With a background in special education, yoga, functional movement, and music, Sandra integrates this knowledge with the latest brain research to help you find solutions to your personal needs that are effective and long lasting. If you are interested in more information or would like to make an appointment, call Sandra today at 250 862 8489. 

The Feldenkrais Method® created by physicist Moshe Feldenkrais, PhD., combines precisely structured movement sequences with the latest advances in brain research; it will help you recover from specific areas of injury such as the neck and shoulders or to improve fluidity and ease in sports, recreational activities or life. Join the ranks of such notables as actress Whoopi Goldberg, cellist YoYo Ma and the members of the Canadian Men’s Alpine Ski Team.


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Feldenkrais®, Feldenkrais Method®, Awareness Through Movement®, and Functional Integration® are registered service marks of the Feldenkrais Guild® of North America. Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner ™ and Guild Certified Feldenkrais Teacher ™ are certification marks of the Feldenkrais Guild®.