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On the Other Hand

By Arnold Askew, GCFP

I used to work in a pain clinic with many people recovering or living with the results of horrendous injuries. One day a woman came in who had had her right hand violently amputated while working in a dangerous blue collar job. The accident had occurred almost a year before, yet she was still experiencing pain in her right shoulder and neck. She assumed, as did her doctors, it was from nerve damage. The fact that the pain practically resolved in a short four or five Feldenkrais® sessions proved otherwise. Her pain was not from nerve damage, but from the protective manner in which she had locked her shoulder after the injury. It was a natural behavior and because she was a quick study she was soon functioning pain free. 

However, that is not the remarkable part of this woman’s story. The following outlines what I observed and shows what a flexible brain she really had. On her first visit I inquired about the injury and her loss. I asked if she had been right handed. “Yes,” she answered. I asked if it was difficult to learn to do things with her left hand.  ‘No,” she replied looking at her left hand. “This is my right hand now.”  The comment struck me as kind of odd at the time, enough to remember it. All other amputees I had met that lost their dominant hand complained of great difficulty relearning everything on the other side. But she acted as if it were nothing. I assumed it was a type of coping mechanism. Then our focus turned to her complaint of pain. 

The woman was always early to her appointments until the fourth session when she arrived about ten minutes late. She came in apologizing, flustered and almost out of breath. “It’s alright,” I assured her. But she wanted to explain. Upon entering the city an interstate sign posted road work ahead. It instructed cars to move into the left lane. She of course thinking her left hand was her right merged into the right lane thinking it was the left. Once there she had a difficult time getting back into traffic. Thus she was late. She was so sorry she apologized again. It was at this point that I realized just how completely her flexible brain had switched her dominant hand. She signed her name with her left hand. She ate with her left hand. She did it all as a lefty. She was truly left handed now, with the only exception being she thought of it as right handed. 

Arnold Askew is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitionercm who specializes in pain management and injury recovery. Contact him for more information at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).



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