Feldenkrais®: The Power of Words, and Permanent Damage

I love being a Feldenkrais® Practitioner. I love working with people, and I love helping them recover from injuries and chronic pain. It’s actually not that complicated, and my clients are often amazed (and delighted) to discover how easy and effortless it is to heal from pain.

I recently worked with a young woman who was experiencing persistent neck pain from an auto accident. Along with her neck pain, she also had frequent headaches, numbness in her hands and arms, decreased cervical range of motion, difficulty keeping up with her job, and her home life was suffering.

However, after a few weeks of Feldenkrais®, her neck pain dramatically decreased, her headaches were gone, the numbness in her hands and arms were a distant memory, her cervical range of motion improved, her energy increased, and she was able to return to work full-time. Even better, she got a spark in her eye, a spring in her step, and her remarkable wit and sense of humor returned.

We both decided that she no longer needed to see me, and she was off to enjoy the life she loved before her accident. Therefore, I was stunned when she came back a few weeks later with a full-blown return of all her symptoms. She was in tears, extremely depressed and in severe pain. I couldn’t understand what went wrong, until she told me the story.

She had returned to her physician for a follow-up assessment, which included cervical x-rays. Her physician looked at the films, showed them to her, and informed her that she may have permanent damage” as a result of the accident. He told her that she may never be the same as she was prior to the incident, and may be looking at a life of pain and dysfunction. At that point even my neck began to hurt.

I reminded her that she had been pain-free for weeks, had regained her strength, range of motion and had returned to all of her functional and recreational activities. She burst into tears and wailed, “But that was before I knew I had “permanent damage!” Even the way she said the words gave them a life and power of their own. Uh-oh.

I pointed out that her doctor said that she may have permanent damage; he never said that she did have permanent damage. Through her tears she explained that she saw the x-rays herself and they looked “pretty bad”. Surprised, I asked her if she had ever seen an x-ray before. No, she never had, but she assured me that they looked awful. Sheesh!

As Feldenkrais® Practitioners, we understand the power of language. An unfortunate choice of words can transform someone who is healing into someone who has no hope of recovering. A poor choice of words can take away your power and render you helpless. Words can heal or harm, encourage or destroy, empower or devastate. They might even cause permanent damage. Words have power; choose them carefully.

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