The Franklin Method
I had the opportunity this week to try the Franklin Method of movement at an OP-PT clinic in the Milwaukee area. Let me rewind. While doing some hands-on research for an article I'm writing (stay tuned!), I met a few private practice physical therapists who have integrated other complementary wellness programs into their practice. Since I work in an acute-care setting, I am not as familiar with some of the newer trends in outpatient physical therapy practice. So they explained to me the multiple benefits of incorporating other services into their practice, including Pilates, personal training, massage and a movement philosophy named after its founder, the Franklin Method.
Eric Franklin is a dancer by background, who studied movement imagery and conditioning with international experts and developed his imaging methods in the mid 1980s. He is the author of multiple books describing his work, including Relax Your Neck - Liberate Your Shoulders and Dynamic Alignment through Imagery. The Franklin Method activates body and mind function through the use of imagery, experiential anatomy and reconditioning movement to improve function. It maximizes neuroplasticity to relearn body posture and movements by practicing movement with activation of unused musculature.
It was an experience. I'm kind of fast-paced and intense at times. I like activities like running or cardio/strength/abs workout DVDs because I feel like my workout is more accomplished if my heart rate is elevated for most of it. For me to spend time stretching or imagining my body moving differently always sounded like, boring, I guess. My instructor started our session by asking me to locate my hip joint. I, like many physical therapists, pointed to the most lateral aspect of my hip, the greater trochanter of my femur. My instructor corrected me. The actual joint (where bone-meets-bone) is located nearly six inches medial to that point, closer to my groin than my ASIS.
After the embarrassment of being wrong wore off, my instructor asked me to perform a supine hip flexion (elevating my leg into the air). I activated my abs and turned on my quads, of course. I was then patiently taught how to activate my psoas muscle to initiate the movement, allowing my rectus abdominus to relax, thus, my diaphragm a greater space to expand and I was able to take a deeper breath. The changes in my movement were very subtle and required me to imagine the movement versus simply going through the motions. We did the same exercise with my arm. She asked me where the arm started and I pointed to my acromion. Wrong! It starts at the sterno-clavicular joint. I performed a slow shoulder flexion and imagined the motion starting at the sterno-clavicular joint. I was able to transition from using less of my upper trap and more of my pectoral, which felt much more relaxed and less tense.
Now, having actually completed 75 minutes of Franklin Method movement, I can see how effective it is for patients to relearn how to use their body effectively. I was able to notice a more relaxed (or depressed) acromial-clavicular joint, as if my shoulders had the weight taken off them. I usually activate my abs constantly during the day, both to stabilize my core and as a strengthening tool to maintain my core strength. Practicing the Franklin Method gave me insight into how rigid my torso was and how difficult breathing was for me.
I can imagine how helpful this would be for some of my patients. If a particular movement is especially difficult or painful, learning a new activation system and teaching new movement patterns can assist in a more pain-free lifestyle. Patients can feel like they have control over their bodies and through visualization can perhaps see a light at the end of the tunnel, imagine lifting their arm or bending over without shooting pains across their back or shoulder. The Franklin Method, in this busy, productivity-based system of health care, allows patients a chance to slow down and the opportunity to better understand posture, body mechanics and the connection between mind and body. It really is a perfect match for physical therapy practice.
Have you ever tried the Franklin Method? What did you think? How can you incorporate some of these techniques into your daily practice?