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Feldenkrais Method®

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Related terms
Background
Theory
Evidencetable
Tradition
Safety
Attribution
Bibliography

Related Terms
  • Awareness Through Movement®, bodywork, Feldenkrais bodywork, Functional Integration®, gestalt synergy.

Background
  • The Feldenkrais Method® was developed by Moshe Feldenkrais (190-1984), a Russian-born Israeli physicist who was disabled from a knee injury. Dr. Feldenkrais called on his formal training in science and the martial arts to develop an approach that aimed to help the body move in more natural and comfortable ways.
  • The Feldenkrais Method® involves stretching, reaching, and changing posture in specific patterns. In some cases, it includes a form of massage. In general, the emphasis of the Feldenkrais Method® is to provide supportive therapy or physical rehabilitation. It has not historically been viewed as a cure for most diseases. Recently, the Feldenkrais Method® has been studied as a means to improve muscle and joint pain, to improve quality of life in chronic conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, and to reduce anxiety levels. Research is still early in these areas, without definitive answers.
  • The Feldenkrais Method® can only be offered by practitioners who have trained in accredited programs. Practitioners are registered with Feldenkrais guilds worldwide. In the United States and Canada, practice of the Feldenkrais method is not governmentally regulated.

Theory
  • The Feldenkrais Method® is based on the concept that improving patterns of movement may enhance overall physical and psychological performance or recovery from disabling conditions.
  • Two basic components of the Feldenkrais Method® include: Awareness Through Movement® and Functional Integration®. These approaches may be used alone or in combination with each other. Feldenkrais practitioners consider Awareness Through Movement® and Functional Integration® to be equivalent and complementary means of achieving improvements in movement patterns.
  • Awareness Through Movement® is an approach to body movement that is taught in group sessions by Feldenkrais practitioners. Practitioners verbally lead participants through a series of slow movement sequences that may involve everyday motions such as standing up, sitting down, or reaching, but may also involve abstract movements. These sessions often last between 30 and 60 minutes and may be customized to the ability of individual participants. There are hundreds of Awareness Through Movement® patterns, which vary in complexity and difficulty. The goals of Awareness Through Movement® are to increase awareness of what types of movements work best for a participant, to find sequences of movement to replace uncomfortable or habitual patterns, and to improve flexibility and coordination.
  • Functional Integration® involves a hands-on private session with a Feldenkrais practitioner. Participants are fully clothed and may be lying down, sitting, or standing. As with Awareness Through Movement®, the emphasis is on helping participants develop patterns of movement that are efficient and comfortable. The practitioner may touch the participant and move muscles and joints gently within the normal range of motion. Movement sequences are customized to the individual, and through touch, the practitioner may demonstrate new movement patterns. An aim of these sessions is to help identify patterns of movements that are natural and comfortable. It is believed that by leading the body through more functional patterns of movement, the body may learn to move in beneficial ways, resulting in improvements in everyday activities or in symptoms related to medical conditions. Sessions generally last from 30 to 60 minutes.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *


It has been suggested that the Feldenkrais Method® may help improve unstable balance or function, but there is little available research.


C


There is not enough clinical evidence on the use of Feldenkrais for cerebral palsy.

C


Patients who practice complementary alternative medicine methods have reported that the Feldenkrais Method®, as well as breathing therapy, massage, and relaxation techniques helped improve symptoms of dystonia. Further data are needed to form therapeutic recommendations.

C


Early research suggests that Awareness Through Movement® sessions may improve self-confidence in patients with eating disorders, although it is not clear if eating habits are affected. Further research is needed before a conclusion can be drawn.

C


The Feldenkrais Method® is popularly considered a useful treatment for chronic pain. However, clinical evidence of the efficacy of Feldenkrais in fibromyalgia is limited.

C


Limited research suggests that Feldenkrais sessions may be helpful when added to other therapies for back pain and may have mild benefits when used alone.

C


Early research suggests that participation in a single Awareness Through Movement® session may reduce anxiety levels. Other research revealed improved mood among participants who enrolled in a one-year program that included the Feldenkrais Method®.

C


Early evidence suggests that steadiness and comfort with daily movements, depression, anxiety, self-esteem, and overall quality of life may improve in patients with multiple sclerosis who use Feldenkrais bodywork or participate in Awareness Through Movement® sessions. More research is necessary.

C


In early studies of patients with nonspecific musculoskeletal disorders, Body Awareness Therapy® and Feldenkrais seemed to improve health-related quality of life. It is not clear if Feldenkrais is superior or equal to other forms of body movement therapy for musculoskeletal disorders in general, and little research is available.

C


Limited evidence suggests that Feldenkrais may reduce neck and shoulder pain, although additional research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn.

C


There is not enough scientific evidence to assess the effects of Feldenkrais on physical functioning and well-being in the elderly.

C


The Feldenkrais Method® has been suggested as a potentially useful adjunct to rehabilitation or recovery after injury or surgery (in particular in patients with orthopedic injuries). Further research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be made.


C


There is not enough scientific evidence to assess the effects of Feldenkrais on voice disturbances.

C
* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)


Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Back pain, chronic pain, enhanced athletic performance (general, improved reaching, increased range of motion in the neck, hamstring lengthening), improving coordination, improving mobility, learning (language, musical instrument), neck stiffness, performance enhancement (motor skills), post-stroke rehabilitation, rehabilitation (for neurologic disorders), rheumatoid arthritis, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).

Safety

Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.

  • Reliable scientific studies and reports of safety of the Feldenkrais Method® are currently lacking. However, both Awareness Through Movement® and Functional Integration® appear to work within the body's own range of motion. These techniques are adjusted for the physical capabilities of the participant. Therefore, the Feldenkrais Method® is likely to be safe in most people.
  • People with muscle or bone injuries or long-lasting conditions, such as heart disease, should speak with their healthcare providers before starting new therapeutic programs. People considering the Feldenkrais Method® during rehabilitation from an injury or surgery should speak with their healthcare providers or surgeons ahead of time. The Feldenkrais practitioner should be informed of any health condition before starting a session.
  • Early studies have found no differences in muscle or tendon length, blood pressure, or heart rate in patients who participate in Feldenkrais sessions, although high-quality studies are lacking in this area.

Attribution
  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Bibliography
  1. Buchanan PA, Ulrich BD. The Feldenkrais Method: a dynamic approach to changing motor behavior. Res Q Exerc.Sport 2001;72(4):315-323.
  2. Dunn PA, Rogers DK. Feldenkrais sensory imagery and forward reach. Percept Mot Skills 2000;91(3 Pt 1):755-757.
  3. Emerich KA. Nontraditional tools helpful in the treatment of certain types of voice disturbances. Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2003;11(3):149-153.
  4. Gard G. Body awareness therapy for patients with fibromyalgia and chronic pain. Disabil.Rehabil 6-17-2005;27(12):725-728.
  5. Jain S, Janssen K, DeCelle S. Alexander technique and Feldenkrais method: a critical overview. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am 2004;15(4):811-25, vi.
  6. Johnson SK, Frederick J, Kaufman M, et al. A controlled investigation of bodywork in multiple sclerosis. J Altern Complement Med 1999;5(3):237-243.
  7. Junker J, Oberwittler C, Jackson D, et al. Utilization and perceived effectiveness of complementary and alternative medicine in patients with dystonia. Mov Disord 2004;19(2):158-161.
  8. Lake B. Acute back pain. Treatment by the application of Feldenkrais principles. Aust Fam Physician 1985;14(11):1175-1178.
  9. Liptak GS. Complementary and alternative therapies for cerebral palsy. Ment Retard Dev Disabil Res Rev 2005;11(2):156-163.
  10. Malmgren-Olsson EB, Branholm IB. A comparison between three physiotherapy approaches with regard to health-related factors in patients with non-specific musculoskeletal disorders. Disabil Rehabil 4-15-2002;24(6):308-317.
  11. Mehling WE, DiBlasi Z, Hecht F. Bias control in trials of bodywork: a review of methodological issues. J Altern Complement Med 2005;11(2):333-342.
  12. Netz Y, Lidor R. Mood alterations in mindful versus aerobic exercise modes. J Psychol. 2003;137(5):405-419.
  13. Ohry A, Tsafrir J. David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Feldenkrais and Raymond Arthur Dart. Isr.Med Assoc J 2000;2(1):66-67.
  14. Schlinger M. Feldenkrais Method, Alexander Technique, and yoga--body awareness therapy in the performing arts. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am 2006;17(4):865-875.
  15. Wanning T. Healing and the mind/body arts: massage, acupuncture, yoga, t'ai chi, and Feldenkrais. AAOHN J 1993;41(7):349-351.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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