Somatic Technique – the Muscle Melter


No links here, because you're already on Dr Dane's website – this has been updated from the older BodyMindPeace Website. Much of the info below was not included in the video.

In the video, Dr. Dane demonstrates a simple process to relax chronically tight muscle groups. He calls it the "Muscle Melter." Depending on what's actually causing the muscle tightness, benefits from practicing the Muscle Melter can range from temporary to permanent. Almost everyone will find it helpful to some extent. The video shows how to use it for the muscles on the side of the neck, but the same basic process can be used with most muscle groups in the body.

How To Do It
Somatic Technique uses breath and  awareness as we gently contract and relax the muscle group. The simplest version is the easiest to learn, and goes like this:

  • Put the muscle you want to relax in a gently stretched position
  • With your awareness in the muscle, gently tighten it as you inhale slowly, then hold it for a second
  • Feel the muscle letting go as you relax it during your exhalation
  • Repeat this basic process about five times, or until the muscle is no longer lengthening

A more advanced version brings the muscle through it’s entire range of motion as you go through the process. This will be covered in Dr. Dane's Self-Care for Neck Pain and Self-Care for Back Pain Programs when they become available.

If this simple procedure doesn't provide relief for you, then there are probably other causes besides a weak communication loop. There are many things which can contribute to muscle tension, which usually require a collection of different therapies (such as those we use at Graceful Way) for best results.

This article will give you an overview of the underlying causes that are most likely involved: Life Health – Healing on All Four Levels. The key is to first determine the primary causes for each person, because there is no "one size fits all" formula when it comes to health and well-being!

Background – The Communication Loop
This approach to releasing chronically tight muscles is based on the work of Moshe Feldenkrais, and was developed by Tom Hanna, a brilliant body worker and teacher in California.

It’s based on the fact that there is a “feedback loop” between your muscles and your brain.  Healthy  relaxation of a muscle depends on the integrity of communication throughout this loop.

The muscle and its tendons are loaded with nerve sensors that tell the brain what the muscle is doing.  The brain has a “sensory” part, which “feels,” and a “motor” part, which “drives” (controls) the muscle.

The motor part of the brain depends on input from the sensory part in order to know how to control the muscle.  This is all part of our conscious control of our muscles.

A good flow of information in the loop means there will be appropriate tension in the muscle.  In other words, the muscle will be relaxed when it has nothing to do, and contract when it needs to do some work.

Now, here comes the “But . . . “  If something has happened to impair communication in this feedback loop, the motor part of the brain throws up its hands and says, “Oi vey, how can I tell the muscle what to do if I don’t have enough information?”

When the motor part reaches the “Oi vey!” point, the control of the muscle is turned over to a subconscious part in the brain stem.  The brain stem, which is the home of our primitive survival reflexes, doesn’t give a rip what the muscle is doing – it just steps in and sets the tension at a particular level.

How A Weak Communication Loop Affects You
The result is a set level of tension in the muscle, regardless of what is going on in its environment.  In other words, the muscle can no longer completely relax, and the conscious mind is clueless about what happened.  Bummer!

So, what does all this intrigue mean to you?  Besides making you feel stiff and tight, it also reduces blood and lymph flow in the muscle.  This is because the blood and lymph vessels get squeezed by the tight muscle.  That leads to an oxygen deficit and a buildup of toxic waste products in the tissue, causing pain, poor function,  and greater likelihood of injury.

Do you see how the dominoes are falling here?  The end result is a tight, cranky muscle, which can throw a temper tantrum at the slightest provocation.  This is often what happens when you bend over to pick up your socks, or turn your head quickly and, whammo – it feels like the spring went “sprong!”

The Best Medicine Is Prevention
When pain occurs (anywhere in your body), you can be pretty sure that there were already several "straws on the camel's back" before you noticed the pain. The "Straws" are contributing factors that set up a problem and make it more likely to happen.

Some examples of "Straws" include: physical restrictions in the joints, muscles or connective tissues, mental or emotional stress, poor lymphatic flow, one or more weak acupuncture meridians, nutritional deficiency, blocked energy flow from an old trauma, etc.

When you notice that an area feels tighter or weaker than another, or it hurts with sitting or physical activity, these are clues that "straws" are accumulating. You can use the Muscle Melter to help relax and lengthen the muscles. This might buy you some time and prevent an eventual flare-up.

The best prevention is found through working with a skilled physical medicine professional whom you trust. They can identify the underlying issues (straws) before things get out of hand, and help you bring things back into a healthy balance again. A good one will show you what you can do yourself to keep it that way.

If you have pain on a regular basis: this article offers many insights into pain and its underlying causes. Most likely, much of this will be new information for you: All About Pain

Related Techniques
Ten Minutes to Relaxation and Flexibility – a simple home practice for relaxing and gently toning the whole body.

For a great technique for dealing with scar tissue adhesions (a common cause of pain) in muscles, or between muscles and nerves, see Active Release Technique.