Moving With Pain: What Principles From Somatic Practices Can Offer to People Living With Chronic Pain

Emma Meehan, Bernie Carter

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)
    114 Downloads (Pure)


    This article brings together research from the fields of chronic pain management and somatic practices to develop a novel framework of principles to support people living with persistent pain. These include movement-based approaches to awareness of the internal body (interoception), the external environment (exteroception) and movement in space (proprioception). These significantly work with the lived subjective experiences of people living with pain, to become aware of body signals and self-management of symptoms, explore fear and pleasure of movement, and understand how social environments impact on pain. This analysis has potential to create new ways of supporting, understanding and articulating pain experiences, as well as shaping the future of somatic practices for chronic pain.

    Lay summary
    Chronic (persistent) pain is experienced by an estimated 20% of people worldwide, with physical symptoms that in turn affect psychological and social elements of daily life. This article focuses on ‘somatic practices’ to support pain management. Somatic practices are a group of movement forms that focus on body awareness, attention to movement habits, opening up movement capacity and creative movement exploration.

    Some prior research has examined the positive benefits of somatic practices, such as the Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method, for specific conditions such as musculoskeletal pain or Fibromyalgia. However, none have considered what the underlying principles from somatic practices can offer people living with a range of chronic pain conditions. In particular, the role of creative and improvised approaches to somatic movement for chronic pain has been lacking.

    In this article, we produce a framework that proposes how somatic principles of interoception (internal body awareness), exteroception (awareness of external environment) and proprioception (perception of movement in space) can provide cues for exploration with people living with persistent pain. Exploring somatic principles are ways in which people living in pain could develop both their awareness and relationship with sensation, emotion and environments associated with pain (and pleasure).
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number620381
    Number of pages10
    JournalFrontiers in Psychology
    Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright © 2021 Meehan and Carter. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


    Research and Innovation (UKRI), grant reference number AH/S003495/1.


    • dance
    • somatic practice
    • chronic pain
    • interoception
    • exteroception
    • proprioception

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Psychology(all)
    • Arts and Humanities(all)


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