Sensory Motor Amnesia - SMA


// Explained

Sensory Motor Amnesia, or SMA, is the phenomenon Thomas Hanna described as the dual loss of feeling and motor control over areas that have become chronically tight.  This is a function of learning and attention. For example, if you walk around with a purse or laptop bag always on one shoulder, that shoulder will tend to become more contracted and elevated. You might notice this the first day or two, but very quickly you become conditioned to this level of contraction and the new position of your shoulder. When that happens, you may stop feeling how tight that shoulder is and at the same moment, become unable to simply relax the shoulder. If you were to look in a mirror, you might be surprised to find that one shoulder is higher than the other, or rounded forward. 

These are both signs of SMA.


Events that can lead to SMA

+ Injury

+ Chronic stress responses

+ Maintaining a straight/steady spine

+ Sitting in the same position for an extended period

+ Inflexible shoes

+ Casts and splints

+ Constrictive clothing



+ Encourage the opposite pattern of increased motor control

+ Increased awareness

+ Remembering how to move and feel again


“SMA is a state that occurs universally in the human species as the predictably conditioned result of long-term stress conditions. Constant repetition of stressful stimuli will cause loss of conscious voluntary control of significant areas of the body’s musculature, usually predominating at the center of gravity, i.e., the musculature at the juncture of pelvis and rib cage.”
— T. Hanna

Physiologically, what happens is that the base level of muscle activity in one or many areas of the body becomes elevated, until a muscle can be 30%, 40%, 50% contracted or more and yet feel as though it is at rest. It also becomes shorter and unable to return to full length, creating stress on the joint and limiting your range of motion. This new base level of muscle contraction is then maintained, unconsciously and involuntarily by your spinal cord and brain stem. The muscle will become resistant to stretch, fatigued, rigid and will cramp more easily. 

This phenomenon is thought to happen whenever there is a strong and steady contraction. Some common events that can cause this are injury, chronic stress responses, maintaining a straight/steady spine, sitting in the same position for an extended period, inflexible shoes, casts, splints, and constrictive clothing.

Somatic techniques are designed to reverse SMA and encourage the opposite pattern of increased motor control and increased awareness; essentially remembering how to move and feel again. Barring structural damage to the nerves, these techniques can be applied to any area of SMA.


While the techniques employed at Elevated Somatics will not magically make your bone heal faster or repair a severed tendon, they can help with this secondary issue of injury and assist in helping you to fully and completely recover balance and free, painless movement again. We will do this together by helping you to learn to let go of the holding pattern that is no longer necessary. Through slow, gentle movements, you will learn.

Somatics can help by reconnecting you to the muscles that are locked up in this chronic pattern of holding. As you reconnect, you will learn to relax parts of you that might still be protecting you from a long ago healed injury. Through slow, gentle movement, you will experience safety once again moving an area that has been fearful of pain. 

This is a process in reintegrating parts of you that have essentially been lost and in this process of integration you will become more whole and more free.