JOURNAL OF ECOLOGICALLY SUSTAINABLE MEDICINE SYMBIOSIS 13
Spotlight on ESM Therapies
The first in a series highlighting specific healing modalities within esm
The Homeopathy of Bodywork
By Luann Overmyer
Ortho-Bionomy is a gentle, effective acknowledges the relationship of the physical
approach to somatic re-education that uses structure of the body (both osseous and
comfortable positioning and relaxing move- somatic) to the self-healing potential of the
ments to unlock tension, relieve pain, individual.2
promote structural balance, reduce stress A particular osteopathic treatment Luann Overmyer is a
and increase personal awareness and well- procedure, known as positional release, was Nationally Certified Therapeutic
being. Ortho-Bionomy incorporates a wide developed by Lawrence Jones, an American Bodyworker and a Registered
spectrum of techniques ranging from osteopath. In 1964, Jones described in Senior Practitioner and
hands-on contact to non-physical contact an article, “Spontaneous Release by
Advanced Instructor with the
with the client’s energy field to initiate Positioning,” that pain and tension could
Society of Ortho-Bionomy,
innate, self-corrective reflexes that remind be relieved in a few minutes by slowly and
the body of its own natural ability to find carefully exaggerating an abnormal posture International. She teaches
balance.1 so as to make the patient maximally Ortho-Bionomy seminars in the
In a typical session the client, clothed comfortable. He found that muscle spasms United States and Australia, and
and without shoes, lies on a table and iden- that had been holding the bones in an abnor- maintains a private practice in
tifies any areas of discomfort; the practition- mal position would spontaneously relax with- Albany, California. Luann has
er slowly moves the client into positions of out a forceful manipulation. developed techniques to address
comfort that allow patterns of tension to Arthur Lincoln Pauls, a British carpal tunnel syndrome and
release and to be replaced by a sense of osteopath, was inspired by Jones’ work to
neuritis conditions of the arm
well-being. Ortho-Bionomy addresses a dedicate himself to the principles of non-
and is currently writing a book
remarkable number of painful and debilitat- force corrective techniques. By 1976 Pauls
ing physical and emotional conditions; it is had developed the Phased Reflex Techniques on Ortho-Bionomy self-care.
taught and recognized worldwide for its of Ortho-Bionomy. These techniques encom-
simple, gentle and lasting effectiveness. pass positional release and energetic tech-
niques that enable the client to understand,
Origin and History consciously experience and even participate
in their own capacity to self-correct.
The philosophical and scientific roots of
Ortho-Bionomy lie in the field of In Conventional Health Care
Osteopathy. This 100-year old system of
health care recognizes the self-healing, self- Ortho-Bionomy’s primary benefits lie in
regulating capacity of the body, and seeks to helping people to break the cycle of pain, to
facilitate and augment the basic curative correct structural and somatic dysfunction,
force inherent in the body. Osteopathy has and to release stress. This non-invasive, quick
developed a system of treatment that acting approach is an effective preparation
14 SYMBIOSIS JOURNAL OF ECOLOGICALLY SUSTAINABLE MEDICINE
for movement and therapeutic exercise. She adapts to the trauma and develops
Ortho-Bionomy incorporates a re-education compensation patterns somewhat more
process that includes isometric and isotonic limiting, perhaps painful, yet still functional.
techniques, posture and gait training, aware- The practitioner, guided by the client’s pre-
ness-based therapeutic exercise and posi- ferred posture and subtle movement, supports
tional release as part of the client’s self-care and follows the movement patterns inherent in
program. the tissue. This allows the client to self-correct
Ortho-Bionomy facilitates the therapeu- her own structural faults, while at the same
tic process. The body is always moved in the time releasing any emotional and mental trau-
direction of comfort, allowing the client to ma that may have been generated by the injury
relax and develop trust in the practitioner’s and stored in the compensation posture.
hands and the therapeutic process. With Through the action of the proprioceptive
Ortho-Bionomy the client experiences a system the client can release the trauma, resist-
greater sense of well being and ease from ance and pain, increase her range of motion,
within, and learns to move toward comfort and learn to integrate more effectively her
and away from pain. The client becomes physical, emotional, and mental experiences.4
physically and mentally attuned to inherent In effect, Ortho-Bionomy is compatible
possibilities of change. with any system of traditional medicine. These
The key to the effectiveness of Ortho- techniques have already been incorporated into
Courtesy of North Atlantic Books Bionomy lies in the reflex activity and in the a variety of health care settings: medical offices,
proprioceptive nervous system. This system physical therapy clinics, sports medicine clin-
generally works below normal waking con- ics, outpatient chemotherapy clinics, HIV and
sciousness, shaping posture and movement AIDS clinics, dental and chiropractic offices.
This respectful patterns by registering and adapting the Ortho-Bionomy is currently being used by
body’s subtlest responses to a lifetime of osteopaths, nurses, manual lymph drainage
non-force approach experience. therapists, physical and occupational thera-
In Ortho-Bionomy, the slow move- pists, massage therapists, bodywork practition-
affirms the natural ments, gentle positioning and slight com- ers, counselors, psychotherapists and social
pression stimulate the proprioceptors at a workers.
wisdom of the body, pace that allows the client the opportunity to
be consciously present and attuned to the In Allied Health Care Practices
offering the client stored experience within these movement
patterns. Proprioceptively, the client is Conventional allied health care benefits from
possibilities for offered alternative and more functional integrating Ortho-Bionomy in several ways.
patterns. This respectful non-force approach The techniques work quickly to release pain
change. affirms the natural wisdom of the body, and discomfort. The average position of release
offering the client possibilities for change.3 is only held for 20-60 seconds, yet the relief
The techniques of Ortho-Bionomy edu- can be profound. The client becomes engaged
cate the client to recognize which positions in the therapeutic process, learning that pain is
relieve pain or stress. Finding these opti- not endless, and that comfort is a realizable
mum positions stimulates self-correction outcome. Health care practitioners find that
and interrupts the reflex arc that perpetuates once pain is relieved, patients can communi-
the pain cycle. This is especially useful in cate more coherently about their symptoms
chronic cases where the trauma pattern has and take a greater role in their healing process.
been proprioceptively incorporated. Patient resistance to therapy is eliminated and
For example, take the case of a woman recovery time can be reduced.
who suffers an injury that disturbs her nor- The work has been safely and extensively
mal, healthy structural pattern of movement. applied for a wide variety of orthopedic
JOURNAL OF ECOLOGICALLY SUSTAINABLE MEDICINE SYMBIOSIS 15
conditions. Ortho-Bionomy has totally encourages a sense of their natural healing
eliminated pain in post-surgical patients capacity. Their somatic and emotional feel-
with bilateral hip replacements who could ings are acknowledged in a safe and support-
not tolerate any extrinsic movement. It is ive manner.
used to address the chronic and acute pain Ortho-Bionomy allows cancer patients
of scoliosis. Low back conditions and to slow down, experience and reintegrate
sciatica problems quickly resolve with the their sense of themselves in a somatic way
techniques and gentle exercise program of that focuses on wellness and quality of life.
this work. The work helps them to understand how
Physical therapists use Ortho-Bionomy stress and fear affect the body and to imple- Ortho-Bionomy
positional release to relieve muscle pain and ment somatic techniques that empower them
spasms, muscle imbalances, and increase to alleviate their own pain and discomfort.
range of motion. The techniques prepare Orthopedic surgeons, neurologists,
patients to slow
the soft tissue and joints for mobilization, doctors, acupuncturists, nutritionists,
movement, therapeutic exercises, and more psychologist, massage therapists and chiro- down, experience
direct stretching and soft tissue work. practors all refer patients to independent
Ortho-Bionomy is a useful adjunct to tradi- practitioners of Ortho-Bionomy. These pro- and reintegrate
tional physical therapy as it uses physio- fessionals find that a wide variety of physical
logical principles that allow healing and and emotional conditions respond to their sense of
release to come from within. Internal cues Ortho-Bionomy’s non-invasive techniques.
increase proprioceptive awareness to allow The gentle approach allows for physical, themselves in a
reintegration, realignment, and the release mental, and emotional effects of trauma to be
of habitual or compensated postural and released effortlessly and re-alignment and somatic way that
movement holding patterns. reintegration to occur naturally.
Ortho-Bionomy effectively treats focuses on wellness
sports injuries by stimulating natural References
neuromuscular reflexes to reduce swelling, 1 Society of Ortho-Bionomy, International®, and quality of life.
decrease pain, increase range of motion, P.O. Box 257899, Chicago, IL 60625-7899,
and enhance healing capacity. (800) 743-4890, offers information on
In chiropractic clinics, Ortho-Bionomy practitioner training programs, a newsletter
with a schedule of classes throughout the
balances muscle dystonia and dysfunctions, United States, Canada and Europe, and sells
increases joint mobility and range of a directory listing Registered Practitioners
motions, and especially re-educates muscle and Instructors by state and country.
spasm in preparation for joint mobilization Recommended reading: Ortho-Bionomy, A
and adjustment. Manual of Practice, Kathy L. Kain with Jim
Berns, is available from North Atlantic
Ortho-Bionomy is highly effective in
Books, P.O. Box 12327, Berkeley, CA 94712.
dealing with the side effects of cancer treat-
ment. It alleviates discomfort secondary to
surgical procedures including frozen shoul-
1 Overmyer, Luann. Ortho-Bionomy. In Bodywork
der and pain due to access port surgery. It in America, edited by George Quasha, in press.
also relieves nausea, lack of energy, and dis- 2 Chaitow, Leon. Osteopathy.
comfort during chemo therapy sessions. Northamptonshire: Thorsons Publishers Limited,
The hands-on component of physical 1982, pp.13-17.
3 Overmyer, ibid. Courtesy of North Atlantic Books
touch helps the cancer patient to relax, to
reintegrate a somatic sense of their bodies, 4 ibid
and to alleviate fear. Patients appreciate the
opportunity to engage and focus on their
bodies within a wellness perspective that