Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA) is a term used to describe a loss of control, feelings or sensations around certain muscles.

It’s as if we no longer remember how a certain area feels or we’ve lost touch with the feel for the length of a muscle since we can get used to the body we are in (for better or worse).

Some muscular connections can seem fuzzy or murky as if it is lost or forgotten when we check-in with the control center in the brain.

You’ll get a chance to find out if this is so for you in the SMA test.

SMA – Stiffness, Pain, Tension

While SMA will not kill you, it is often evident when there is stiffness or pain.

Higher than normal tension or stress in the muscles generally goes along with SMA.

Oddly enough, we can get so used to it, we don’t know the SMA exists since this may lie underneath a certain consciousness that we might not have tapped into for some time.

When SMA happens

Sensory motor amnesia happens when our muscles are activating without conscious control or there is no activation so we’re not clear as to the feel of it anymore.

For instance, our spines can compensate.

Spines Rounding and Compensating

We can get so used to it – or if pain or stiffness interferes – where we’ve forgotten what an upright normal comfortable spine feels like.

What that means is that there can be a certain level of tension being held as a program in the lower parts of the brain (sometimes referred to as the brainstem).

Lower Brain in Control of Program

Like a car which can idle in neutral, in this case, the car is idling in 1st, 2nd, 3rd or higher gears on account of the program or compensation.

Our muscles can stay stuck and our spine may not get back to neutral as if we’ve forgotten how.

As you can imagine, this can wear out an engine and is not ideal for our spine and muscles since that can impede our ability to move easily.

Plus, the energy drain of continual tension or stress – when it stays on just beneath our level of every day awareness – remains to keep us at bay.

SMA – the Disconnect

SMA is also a reduction of neuro-muscular control and function at the same time.

Our quality of movement and the feeling of freedom in movement is generally hampered.

Neurologically speaking, the flow of information continues without an awareness of what is going on underneath the surface.

Information about the position in space (proprioception) of your muscles, the length of the muscle, and the feelings of resistance or tension are also housed in the lower parts of the brain.

Regain Control of SMA

Re-connect Here

You don’t have to  think about it since certain sensors feedback this information.

Your body is going to adjust for whatever position you move yourself into.  Most of this is on autopilot as the subconscious parts of the brain respond accordingly to the known program.

The upper part of the brain is where we learn and create new programs (for better or worse) where it eventually gets moved down to the lower brain as learned (been there, done that).

Motor Cortex

Interestingly, these lower brain programs are powerful enough to assume control where we can lose our connection to the control center in the brain’s motor cortex, if we don’t check in.

Sensory-amnesia can happen as we lose control or forget about the control center over time

In a sense, there is a disconnect between the higher part of the brain which can affect the muscles and movement system.

The 1 Thing

See, muscles do one thing.

The One Big Muscle, The Brain Sends a Message so the Muscles can Contract

They receive a command from the brain to contract.

This way you can bend your arm at the elbow and move your wrist towards your shoulder.

The other side of the equation is that in this case of bending the arm, the back side of the upper arm can relax enough to move the wrist closer to the shoulder.

Some people will say that muscle is stretching, when in fact it is simply allowing for its length to the degree it can lengthen under whatever tension levels have been programmed or adapted.

Out of Balance

However, tension levels can be held or fight the other side so — another form of SMA due to an imbalance in tension.

This is a neurological event.

Our feel of balance or its loss along with the ability to know (or feel) which muscles are held in states of tension or are chronically tight can be useful information.

The ability to relax muscles, however, can be lost or temporarily out of control.

The feelings of tension can be hazy when we can’t pinpoint it – even though we know or feel some parts of our self are held stiff.

If this continues long enough, then certain discomforts or pain can become noticeable when the brain has gone haywire with its programs.

Guarding SMA

When we are injured or have some type of bodily trauma, the muscles and movement system tend to recoil away from the area in order to protect us from further injury.

Hamstring Injury

This can then be set as an on going lower brain program since other muscles can take over such when we compensate (for an injury) and then rely on other muscles to do the work.

We can get really good at guarding an area so certain muscles can tend to forgot what their role or job since the recoiling reflex & former guarding mechanism may still be held on at subtle levels.

This is where then the cascade of muscular imbalance can occur and we might increase our risk of injury or seem to have the same types of injury happening all over again.

Muscle Out of Control

Down the road, this can lead to muscles either:

• being or feeling weak,

• having poor coordination,

• or they no longer remember to relax.

The muscles remain stiff or at levels where tension is higher than normal (though we can get used to it and “learn to live with it”).

Pain or discomfort can ensue at some point as the brain is sorting it out or going haywire since the area or areas are now in states of  tension held at higher than normal with ongoing muscular contractions preventing a full relaxation.

Crossed up signals

These crossed up signals keep things held in check without any relief of the holding tension.

So normally we ought to be able to let go and relax.

When the connection to the brain’s control center – through the communication of signals – aren’t being processed or meeting their destination.

Then things like a limited range of motion of happens or begins to set in.  Slowly over time this becomes the program of what we might call aging.

Getting to Know SMA

SMA isn’t something we feel when we are simply sitting there.

The sensory-motor system of feeling and moving is what is at stake so…

We can’t feel SMA, unless we begin to tune into our movement at a cortical level – and you’ll get your chance soon to find out.

What SMA Looks Like

Generally there is a noticeable or subtle feeling of your body:

  • hesitating
  • misfiring,
  • jerking,
  • glitching,
  • stuttering,
  • or shuddering as you release tension.

SMA Test

You can try this simple movement – but first – let me warn you that if you bump into pain or have a restricted range of motion – move well within your comfort zone.

Plus, you need to move slowly to stay in the control center of the brain.

If you go too fast, then things shift to the lower part of the brain.  So go s-l-o-w to play along.

First, read this first before you try.

Sit with your arms resting comfortably along your sides.

Turn your head/face to the left.  You will keep looking to the left throughout the entire movement.  Make sure you are in an easy comfortable range.  The point is not to strain at all.

At the same time, you are going to look up towards the ceiling while you bring the right shoulder up towards the back of your head.

Then at the same time, you slowly release back to where you started.

Got it – now go ahead and do the movement slowly and feel as much as you can.  This is more about feeling what is happening rather than going for the range of motion.

OK.  Were you able to release slowly and smoothly?

Try it on the other side and feel if there is any difference.

Did either side feel – a little jerky, glitchy or stuttering?  If so, you’ve been SMA’d.

Welcome to SMA

When this type of loss of motor control happens, this points the way to regain lost control since you are now more clued into where possible areas need a tune up.

It’s also possible that you may not feel certain movement actions taking place or you don’t feel a connection or an area as well as you could.

This is ok and normal with SMA.

Normally when we move, we are moving with our learned programs stored in the lower brain.   It’s when we go back to the control center of the motor cortex to check-in that we can begin discover how much or little SMA we have.

SMA – altering it unconsciously

SMA can happen when we alter things unconsciously, say when we sit slumped over time.

Sitting slumped

Our muscles will respond to the demand or lack thereof on them.

Our particular position or repetitive motion grooves in as a program so it becomes less conscious.

Which can be good since we don’t always have to think about how to use the remote once we’ve figured it out.

Good Sensory Motor Amnesia

Good news is SMA can be adjusted since the brain can change and the body will follow the commands of the cortex as you use your awareness to what is taking place.

This wake up to the brain’s command center of the (forgotten or amnesiac) link helps to undo compensations and imbalances so certain positive feelings, sensations and control can be restored.

So sensory-motor amnesia is a both a useful tool and marker to discover if muscular control is off a little

With this knowledge, you can feel how to self-adjust and self-correct to improve the vital and necessary function of the muscles for lifelong control and comfort.

Regain Control of SMA

Find out what to do to help injuries, pain, and stiffness leave.

Click here to get un-SMA’d

Clear up the SMA and Feel Free All Over Again

Edward Barrera
Edward Barrera

Hi I'm Ed Barrera, founder of Gravity Werks and Hanna Somatic Educator. I teach people how to overcome physical pain, reduce muscular stress & tension, and recover quickly from injury using safe, simple, natural tools known as somatics exercises where we use the brain to change our muscles back to comfort so we can confidently do what we want again with our body. As someone who lived in chronic pain (diagnosed with fibromyalgia) in my 20's & 30's, it's my pleasure to offer simple tools which allow us to remain pain free, be less stiff, have mobile & healthy joints and give us the ability to be comfortable as we age. Each week I offer live and recorded online (audio) classes to compliment the full online programs where people can overcome back, neck, shoulder, knee, hip, leg, arm, jaw, etc. pain. When we change our brain, we change our body so we can live pain-free and move easily at any age.